Tuesday 15 November 2011

Movie Review: Ocean's 11 (1960)

A disjointed caper movie featuring the Rat Pack, Ocean's 11 has a bit of style and not much substance. The assembled stars offer minimal acting effort and even less engagement, and around them the plot meanders for too long then yields to awkward execution.

Former military colleagues are slowly reassembled to pull-off a daring simultaneous robbery of five Las Vegas casinos. Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) is the informal leader with Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) as his main buddy. The key insiders include Sam Harmon (Dean Martin), a lounge singer at one of the Casinos, and garbage truck driver Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr.). Beatrice Ocean (Angie Dickinson), the estranged wife of Danny, contributes the eye candy.

Exactly how the complex robbery unfolds is explained in only the most sketchy terms, but apparently a combination of a power failure, re-wired electrical switch boxes and glow-in-the-dark powder sprayed on door handles is all is takes to relieve five casinos of millions of dollars. All goes swimming well for Ocean and his gang, until one of the eleven drops dead of a heart-attack in the middle of the strip, attracting attention to the unusual gathering of former army men in Vegas.

Former criminal Duke Santon (Cesar Romero) then offers his services to the casinos: in exchange for recovering the missing millions, he demands a hefty cut. There are some desperate shenanigans related to hiding money in caskets before the entire heist goes up in smoke.

Director Lewis Milestone never gets a handle on the material, and allows Ocean's 11 to drift endlessly for it's first hour, picking up no momentum whatsoever as a succession of Danny Ocean's friends are clumsily introduced. There is a painfully unfunny recurring joke related to Ocean and Foster making repeated prank phone calls to the brains behind the plot, an incomprehensible Greek with the name of Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff).

Ocean's 11 picks up somewhat once the actual robbery starts to unfold, but the rudimentary acting, directing, writing and cinematography conspire against any memorable moments. The one thing going for the movie is a decent sense of style: Sinatra and his crew are sharply dressed and well pressed, and the Vegas casinos represent the height of glamour circa 1960.

Ocean's 11 enjoys a few moments of panache, but it is generally all wet.

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