During the Depression two rival mob bosses, Robbo and Gisborne, struggle for power. When Robbo sets up an operation that steals from the rich and gives to the poor, he becomes a celebrity and a modern-day Robin Hood, causing Gisborne to put out a hit on him.
NOMINATED FOR 2 OSCARS – Best Adapted Musical Score, Song ('My Kind of Town')
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OSCAR winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Music, Best Sound
“As long as I hate your guts, I know I got good taste!”
In the midst of the Depression, Chicago is run by mob boss Big Jim who happens to be celebrating his birthday with his close friends. After a round of singing his friends raise their guns and shoot him dead. Mob parties are a riot. Smarmy Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) decides to take over but Robbo (Frank Sinatra) fights to keep his territory as both bosses plot to get rid of the other. Robin and the 7 Hoods was released in 1964, bringing together part of the Rat Pack in a modern-day twist on the classic story. The film follows Robbo and his friends Will (Sammy Davis Jr.), Little John (Dean Martin) and Allen A. Dale (Bing Crosby) as they discover that stealing from the rich and giving to the poor can make a mob boss very popular in the town of Chicago.
While the film aims to bring the story of Robin Hood into the 30s gangster era, it doesn’t actually get to it until an hour into the film, when Robbo meets Allen, an accountant who gives him the idea of donating money to charities. Before this happens, the film spends its time on showcasing each performer’s singing and dancing talents. Peter Falk talks, Dean Martin sings, Sammy Davis Jr. dances and then its time for the actual story.
The performances in the film range from over-the-top to low-key. All the men display incredible chemistry with one another, especially in the musical numbers. Falk’s performance is hammy and clichéd, but is amusing to watch. His facial reactions and one-liners are a source of humour. Dean Martin is suave and sexy, tilting his hat and leaning against walls, always effortlessly cool. Davis Jr. is energetic; especially in his solo number “Bang Bang” in which he exhibits his superb dancing skills. Crosby brings a low-key performance that is elegant and charming, balancing out some of the more high-energy performances. Sinatra however, seems bored in most of the scenes except when he sings or dances, finally appearing in his element. And the character of Marian (Barbara Rush) is essentially one-note and has no real story.
The musical numbers are not entirely memorable save for a couple of songs. They seem to pop up in the film at odd times and seem disjointed from the flow of the narrative. The men all perform remarkably however, showcasing their great voices and choreography. When the men sing on screen, in solo or ensemble numbers, their voices are exceptional, reminding the audience why each man is a star in his own right. In the musical number “Style,” Sinatra, Martin and Crosby display great chemistry and timing as well as in “Mr. Booze” where they showcase their comedic talents. Oscar nominated song “My Kind of Town” is catchy and went on to become one of the many hits Sinatra went on to perform in his shows. It is the only large-scale musical number in the film, utilizing a big cast of dancers, choreography and colour.
In probably the most memorable scene, Robbo’s gambling and booze joint is converted to a church revival meeting when the cops are tipped off. As Gisborne and the police make their way to the joint, Robbo and his merry men hit buttons, shout orders and change into costume. The set begins to move as walls revolve, chandeliers recede into the ceiling, card tables flip and people disappear behind walls. It’s pretty spectacular and entertaining. When the cops arrive, they’re met with spiritual song and a warning against Mr. Booze: “alcohol makes a big man small and can lead to life of crime.” Amusing.
While Robin and the 7 Hoods contains many flaws, it still has moments of entertainment and fun. The film is filled with humour: the funeral scene, the revival scene, Falk’s performance, the chemistry between the actors and amusing dialogue. The singing and dancing are also quite fantastic, exhibiting the talent of performers who made their mark in past history. The film is a loose twist on a well-known story, utilizing a group of actors the audience loves to see together on screen. Because if they are having fun, the viewer is having fun.