The Rat Pack

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The Rat Pack

Continuing HBO's tradition of unlikely, potentially incendiary biopics (Don King: Only In America, Citizen Cohn) is a new look at the Rat Pack, the star conglomeration revolving around Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. (but especially Sinatra). Rather than providing a sweeping overview, The Rat Pack focuses on the period leading up to and immediately following John Kennedy's 1960 election. This also, perhaps not coincidentally, coincides with the height of the group, when Vegas-derived cool looked like it could push back the clock to a time before Elvis. Though possessing virtually no physical resemblance, Ray Liotta, Joe Mantegna, and Don Cheadle all do fine work as Sinatra, Martin, and Davis, respectively, and Kario Salem's script allows them to get at some of the intricacies of their relationships. But once everything is established, the movie doesn't have many other places to go. Sinatra's relationship with Kennedy (William L. Petersen) serves as one focal point, but it just as often distracts from the main story as it works as a metaphor for the Pack's rise and fall. Though Dragonheart director Rob Cohen brings an extra level of panache, the standard HBO biopic style—in which nearly every scene seems designed to provide at least three crucial historical details—sometimes gets in the way of things. But the real reason anyone would want to watch a Rat Pack biopic (or some of the Rat Pack's movies, for that matter) is the personalities of those involved. Cohen's film shows both the genuine camaraderie behind the cool and the explosive tensions sometimes underlying both, in the process doing a fine job getting under the surface of its subjects.