Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
It's clear enough that Frank Sinatra has honorable intentions. He wants to make good cop and private-eye movies, the kind Bogart specialized in, with terse dialog and good action sequences and the hero played as a weary cynic with an anti-establishment bias.
The trouble in "Lady in Cement," and to a lesser degree in "The Detective" and "Tony Rome," is that Sinatra also wants to be Sinatra: running the show, slipping in-jokes over on us, writing in guest appearances for his needy friends. That's the problem with Sinatra, I guess. His personal empire is so large he doesn't need to venture outside for directors, producers, writers, friends. And since the employees of Sinatra & Co. don't like to say no to the big man, Sinatra winds up in lousy movies in spite of himself.
It's well-established that Sinatra can act, given a good script and strong direction. He was splendid in "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), under John Frankenheimer's direction, and "From Here to Eternity" (Fred Zinnemann) and "Some Came Running" (Vincente Minnelli) and in a dozen musicals. But Gordon Douglas, who is directing Sinatra's current series of private eye and/or cop movies, is apparently unable to keep these films under the tight discipline that the genre demands. An extra scene, a wrong word, a relaxing of tension to spin off an in-joke and the house of cards collapses.
These weaknesses were evident in "Tony Rome," and more evident in "The Detective," which also had an incredible complication of flashbacks and alternate plot lines to mess things up. But "Lady in Cement" is the worst; somewhere in the middle of this vulgar exercise, a good movie might be buried. But we'll never know.