An irresistible melange of showbiz and politics, The Rat Pack
is a sprawling HBO TV movie about the late-50s axis between Frank Sinatra's cool-talking cronies and the White House-bound Kennedy clan. Ray Liotta, William L Petersen and Joe Mantegna manage to give real performances as opposed to impersonations as Frankie, JFK and Dean Martin, and there's a stand-out turn from Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr, who fantasises a blazing, gunslinging rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin" as delivered to the cross-burning Nazi pickets outside his hotel campaigning against his marriage to a white Swedish starlet. Naturally the story goes over a lot of familiar ground (Marilyn Monroe, and so on,) but the Hollywood-Vegas angle, with the obvious criminal tie-ins, lends it a freshness. Angus McFadyen remains typecast as real-life actors, following up his Orson Welles (Cradle Will Rock
) and Richard Burton (Liz
, the Elizabeth Taylor biopic) by doing a squirming, but funny take on Peter Lawford, caught between the White House and Sinatra's vast, demanding ego. Its general style is somewhere between a Scorsese gangland epic and made-for-TV muckraking biopic and a lot of material from Shawn Levy's fine book Rat Pack Confidential
is worked into the weave.
On the DVD: The Rat Pack is a no-frills disc presented in a good-looking 16:9 anamorphic transfer, though as it's a TV movie this means trimming the top and the bottom of the image. --Kim Newman
DVD Special Features: