Tony Rome (1967)
Tony Rome (1967)

Genre: Crime Drama and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: November 10th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Gordon Douglas Actors: Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Gena Rowlands, Simon Oakland, Jeffrey Lynn, Lloyd Bochner, Robert J. Wilke, Virginia Vincent, Joan Shawlee

 


 

R

etired flatfoot Anthony “Tony” Rome (Frank Sinatra) spends his time bouncing between a local Miami boxing gym, where he plays cards, and living aboard his boat, the Straight Pass. When a former partner of his, Ralph (Robert J. Wilke), now working as a house detective for the Corsair Hotel, finds himself in a jam, Tony is called in for a favor. Diana Pines (Sue Lyon), the daughter of a wealthy construction magnate (Simon Oakland), checked herself into the hotel, practically unconscious from expensive booze, and needs to be removed before a scandal arises. For $200, Rome takes her back to her husband in an exquisite mansion, where the detective picks up another party-loving dame, Ann Archer (Jill St. John), who simply needs a ride.

This initial set-up isn’t terribly sinister or unusual, though Sinatra and St. John get to trade some darkly flirtatious barbs, giving the picture a bit of a film noir edge. Moments later, however, when Tony returns to his boat, only to be greeted with a gun in his face – followed by a handkerchief doused with chloroform – it’s evident that he’s unwittingly mixed up in quite the mystery. And it gets steadily more dangerous when Diana confronts Tony the next day to inquire about a missing $5,000 diamond pin, which he offers to recover for a small fee of 10% of its value. Of course, several other parties wish to acquire the item, too – and perhaps even kill for it.

“Right now, there are too many questions unanswered.” Standard snooping, a foot chase, a fist fight, some spilt blood, string-pulling political corruption, and a few dead bodies turn up, complicating matters but never quite transforming things into the suspenseful thriller that this film ought to be. Cigarettes are chain-smoked and femme fatales line up to proposition Rome (along with a hint of more genuine romance), though he manages to deflect a great many interactions with cynicism. Of course, he also operates under an admirable code of ethics, which prevent him from being the kind of antihero audiences just can’t get behind. Still, the hazards and obstacles are light enough that he never seems to be in real danger. There’s a sensibleness to this lack of action-oriented plights, which forces Rome to be smart rather than physically formidable; he’s more Sam Spade than James Bond.

Unfortunately, there’s unnecessary comic relief in a number of spots (though the dialogue is inherently witty thanks to Rome’s coolness under pressure), as well as intrusive music that tends to drown out the events it’s meant to supplement (including the recurring title tune, sung by Nancy Sinatra during the opening and closing credits). Additionally, shady personas abound, with supererogatory roles introduced nearly every 10 minutes, some of whom are so peculiar they appear humorous rather than severe. And because of the way Rome moves through the mystery, receiving information more often than digging it up, the plot feels as if embellished routinely on the spot, further diminishing the detective’s prowess; luck is a superior ally to the art of deduction. Even when Rome proves to be a deservingly cinematic sleuth, the slower pacing of the film interferes with the overall entertainment value; nevertheless, Sinatra remains watchable as ever – a moderately hard-boiled, neo-noir private eye who surely lent to the stylings seen in “Chinatown.”

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10