Ocean's 11 (1960)Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 02/02/05 05:17:16
You would need a lot of hands to count the amount of bad remakes out there, but would probably need only one hand to count the great remakes. There's 'The Thing' and 'The Fly'. There's the 1970's version of 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers' and you would also add Stephen Soderbergh's 'Ocean's Eleven' to that list. But what stands out about the 'Ocean's Eleven' remake is that the original is not very good. At all. No wonder they remade it.So the heist remained the same (knocking off several Las Vegas casinos in the same night) but the players, this time old army colleagues, are different. Danny Ocean was initially Frank Sinatra while the others were the Rat Pack which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, a British nobody called Peter Lawford and, well, a bunch of faceless nobodies and no names. Mistake number one: if you're going to base your title around the number of people in the gang, at least make them all interesting or different from each other. For evidence on how to do this right, see 'The Dirty Dozen', 'The Magnificent Seven', or, yes, the remake.
A lot of people think that Frank Sinatra is the epitome of cool, and that's a view I've never been able to go along with. I think his music's over-rated and when you read about some aspects of his personal life, I struggle to find a reason why people still worship the ground he walks on. He is a good actor however, but those who believe him to the most stylish and elegant man to have ever walked the earth will have their dreams shattered the moment he enters the film dressed in a horrible orange furry jumper with big collars.
Likewise, the rest of the Rat Pack. No-one does anything here to give any reason why they were seen as being the pinnacle of style or cool. Dean Martin, like Sinatra, proved himself to be a capable actor, but only when armed with a good script. Unfortunately they don't have that here. Instead we have 50 minutes (50 MINUTES?!) of endless milling about and posing smugly for the camera, before we even get a sniff of the plot.
And 'Ocean's Eleven' is a very smug film. We're supposed to coo in admiration and awe at the fawning afforded to Frank Sinatra, or at the bunch of goggle-eyed maids hanging around the apartment to listen to Dean Martin playing the piano. Why does Dean Martin play the piano (not once, but three times)? Not to serve the plot, but because he can, and therefore he will, regardless of whether or not it's actually interesting. Lawford is the worst offender of the bunch, giving an unbearably smug performance of someone who clearly thinks he's far more talented and superior than he actually is. You have to feel sorry for Sammy Davis Jr however. As the only black man in the cast he's relegated to the role of bin man and lorry driver (apparently as a punishment from Sinatra for having a scandalous relationshop with Kim Novak), so while everyone else can swan about looking cool, he has to slouch about looking scruffy.
Lewis Milestone clearly had little control of the direction of the film. Why else would the first half of the film be virtually plotless and just feature Sinatra, Martin and Lawford just joshing about to no point and to no end? It was highly amusing for them I'm sure, but excruciating tedium for anyone sitting through it. It reaches its absolute low point when a game of pool turns into a conversation into what area of politics they would use the money to get into. It has no point, no wit and no interest. It just draaaaaags, practically pulling the film to a stop, just so Frank and company can kid around and show off to everyone. Thanks guys.
What's worse is that the film and everyone else is clearly in love with Sinatra's character, but we never know why. Dialogue abounds like, "Isn't that just like Danny?", "I'm worried about Danny" or "What a crazy bunch of guys!", but we never see just why Ocean deserves this admiration. He's a charmless, dull character and just because he's Sinatra doesn't detract from these glaring faults. And the subplot of one of the eleven dying at the end is embarrassing in its attempt to shoehorn some tragedy in (and even then, the death is only talked about in relation to its effect on Danny. Danny Ocean - what a guy!) and tasteless in its use to provide a punchline at the end of the film.
Yes, there is a good joke at the end of 'Ocean's Eleven', but it's a bloody long and dull journey to get there. Even the raid on the casinos is dull. It lacks the detail and the invention of the remake. Las Vegas here, seems as difficult to rob as a local post office.It's clear that no-one loved the Rat Pack as much as themselves. The talent of Sinatra and Martin aside, there's very little charm to them and nothing to justify the endless sycophancy around them. And unless you give Sinatra and Martin a script to work from, even they're wasted as this yawnsome, smarmy, unfunny, charmless smugfest proves. It's time to utter the words few movie critics utter: it's best to stick with the remake.
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