11/19/2010

Blu-ray Review: Ocean's 11 (1960) -- 50th Anniversary Edition



Now Available to Own




The 50th Anniversary high definition release of director Lewis Milestone's otherwise forgettable cinematic insomnia cure Ocean's 11 is proof that you can never underestimate the all-consuming and consumer-perpetuated lucrative power of coolness as currency.

And because Ocean's 11 marked the first “Rat Pack” onscreen celebration of original “founder” Humphrey Bogart's Hollywood clique that flourished in the '60s with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, it's become nothing short of a pop culturally iconic motion picture.


Essentially 11 plays like a far less eye-catching 127 minute live action version of the slim-tie wearing, pool shooting, boozing Rat Pack posters that inevitably hang on the walls of contemporary bachelor pads fifty years after the cameras rolled.

Except, unfortunately, the allure of the photographed image is replaced by disinterest once we're the chauvinistic male bonding camaraderie comes to life in this admittedly dated document of a certain macho mindset.


Yet even when we overlook the misogynistic banter, the dubious situations of the overly long film with far too many under-developed characters and subplots that don't go anywhere, it is hard to ignore, considering the fact that given Sinatra's cinematic track record and his role as a talent wrangler behind the scenes, 11 should've been a much hipper heist comedy.

Conceived in an era of brilliant genre works such as The Killing, The Asphalt Jungle and foreign successes Bob le Flambeur and Big Deal on Madonna Street, perhaps because the men behind 11 knew they couldn't compete with originality, they opted for an overly ambitious premise that finds a group of old war buddies knocking over five casinos on New Year's Eve. Needless to say, that alone should've been ample fodder for an interesting ensemble picture.


However, the only thing that sets 11 apart in addition to its legendary cast is its truly thrilling twist ending that never fails to win me over every single time I view it – even if I suspect it was the result of moral fears in viewing pop idols as crooks as opposed to a genuine urge to go against our expectations.


As stale as the stench of an old ashtray filled with cigarettes as even the sight of Dean Martin performing “Ain't That a Kick in the Head” grows old after a handful of times, throughout 11, we're struck with an overall sense that the whole movie was comprised of lazy first takes featuring a gang of narcissists eager to rush through the shot list to enjoy their hedonistic Vegas lifestyle.

Yet because it does boast a Rat Pack Reunion after all as the inaugural feature film to star the notorious group, it's that rare type of classic studio picture that warrants more affection, nostalgia and respect than it truly deserves, making viewers want to sing its praises to try and keep up with the purported coolness rather than break apart from the Pack.


This being said, the Blu-ray presentation is impressive indeed and fans of the Chairman of the Board and his cronies will lust after the extras of the original 11, which would ultimately become overshadowed by Steven Soderbergh's superior yet still similarly smug remake and its two related sequels.

Nonetheless, 11 remains a major disappointment when held up to Vincente Minnelli's vastly superior Some Came Running starring Martin, Sinatra and gal pal Shirley MacLaine as well as other unexpectedly against-type, thought-provoking roles in titles that found the Rat Pack crew members stealing our attention with much more success than Sinatra's Danny Ocean planned this Vegas heist.


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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.