Imagine Ray Liotta as Frank Sinatra, AYYYYYYYYY!!!! Actually, not bad as I thought it would be, since from time to time HBO will release some big time stinkers. This one wasn’t.The story pretty much is the members of the Rat Pack at their peak years, which were the 1950s, and 60s. Frank Sinatra (Liotta) and his boys Dean Martin (Joe Mantenga), Sammy Davis Jr. (Don Cheadle), Peter Lawford (Angus MacFadyen), and Joey Bishop (Bobby Slayton) will do anything to have fun, even if it means being tied with mob guys like Sam “Momo” Giacana (Robert Miranda), or even being tied with the man whose going to be President of the USA, John F. Kennedy (William L. Petersen). Through the movie, we see the Pack’s association with these characters, and how Sinatra used Giancana’s help to promote JFK all the way to the presidency, and some obstacles occur, like the presence of Robert F. Kennedy (Zeljko Ivanek), a man who disliked the likes of Frank and his shtick, the Pack’s personal relationships with their loved ones and themselves, Marilyn Monroe (Barbara Niven), Judith Campbell (Michelle Grace) and ultimately the FBI, all of it leading to a not happy conclusion.
"Surprisingly Good For An HBO Feature"
The film was controversial when it was released, and you can tell. The film deals with tons of stuff you didn’t hear in the 9o’clock news (there’s plenty of scenes that involve nudity, and had they add it a little more, this would’ve been a porn flick disguised as a political thriller). The manipulations from the mob to get JFK in power, secret affairs, like the aforementioned JFK fucking Judith Campbell AND Marilyn Monroe at the same time (Yeah, he had more balls than Bill Clinton) and forging a friendship between him and Sinatra. Peter Lawford married to a Kennedy and in the end being used by Frank, as a contact between him and JFK’s doings in the White House, in other words like a spy, and Lawford’s ultimate infidelity with his wife. It also shows Sammy Davis Jr. and his struggle to fight racism and insecurity from people that hate him because of his skin color and also dealing with the sometimes racist bashing between himself and the Pack. Dean Martin suffering some kind of mid-life crisis and finding out that he’s going to sink his career and life if he stays involved with Frank. And ultimately with Frank, his triumphs and ultimately his failures, and trying to redeem his destroyed marriage to Ava Gardner (Deborah Kara Unger). The moral of the story: how corruption can drive one man’s quest for acceptance in society down into the tubes. Sure, the trend is a little formulaic, but the script, written by Kario Salem is actually well developed and contains its little parts of suspense and comedy relief but every character is there for a reason, though I was a little disappointed that the Rat Pack character of Joey Bishop wasn’t of much importance of the film, since I would’ve liked to know more about him, but due to the interesting and entertaining story, you won’t even care.
You can tell that the settings were pretty much made for TV, but what makes this film good, besides the solid script, is the performances of the actors. Most notable Don Cheadle and Joe Mantenga. Cheadle steals the movie though, since his portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr. is dead-on (not to mention the almost accurate resemblance), and he makes us sympathize with his character. There’s an amusing dance sequence with him, which is pretty cleverly used to express Davis’s anguishes and desires and his feelings in society. Mantenga surprised me, though with his portrayal of Dean Martin, since we see him as a cool, relaxed fellow, who takes things carefully and patiently, he seems a little chubby for his character, but he’s remarkable at it. It has to be said that this is Mantenga’s finest role to date, since the lad has talent, and has showed in many movies in his career, but his choice of scripts is really fucked up, and if he had a proper agent and chose his scripts more wisely, he would’ve been the next Robert Duvall. Ray Liotta seems a little forced as Frank Sinatra, but his performance reminded me of his glory days in Goodfellas. Angus MacFadyen was pretty good in his role as Lawford. The rest of the cast was also up to standards. Finally Director Rob Cohen can shove some dirt off his door after the promising, but unfortunately defrauding Dragonheart, and the utter shite Daylight, since his direction here was really good, hitting suspense where it should and never overdoing any scene (especially the sex scenes).In the end, this film is not a great film, but its really good, thanks to a tight script and good performances. This film is pretty much like a companion to JFK since it pretty much deals with the same story but from a different angle and with different characters. Recommended for anyone who’s a Sinatra fan or a history buff, since it’s worth a look. Oh, I forgot, some good songs in there too, though not as much as you would like.
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originally posted: 08/30/02 10:38:57