Review by Brad Green:
Ocean’s Eleven. If I didn’t know of the original Rat Pack crime movie I’d
swear it was a cricket team. Hmmm, crime and cricket. Perhaps that would have to be
Cronje’s Eleven. Yet strangely, there is a point of comparison between heist hatchers
and flannelled fools. To achieve their aims both most harbour respect for arcane arts
– expert safe cracking, or mastery of the wrong ‘un. The great difference is
that The Heist is truly a gentleman’s game.
But these players are a long way from the finely cut lawn of Lords. Las Vegas is a
treasure chest for a recidivist con, and just as much for a soundtrack producer. The man
at the helm of the music is DJ and remix-meister David Holmes and his first task was to fashion a contemporary take on the Vegas swing of Sammy, Deano and Sinatra. The
spirit of Rat Pack was in, but their tunes were off limits.
This soundtrack is an individual take on a venerable vibe. On the one hand smoky lounge
music and slinky jazz – conveying the ritz, flash and swish of that great gambling
den of the desert; and on the other freewheeling funk that evokes an underworld of
wheeling, dealing and stealing. Vegas is a breeding ground for all manner of criminal
machinations, mostly lurking beneath the splendour. The players might be focused and
phlegmatic but there’s plenty of subliminal drama, and the music here is on the
Much of it is fresh, but notwithstanding the Rat Pack interdict, Holmes also stacks the
deck with a few well-chosen stalwarts. Perry Como doing his mambo is the light, bright
veneer and Elvis isn’t only called upon for the obvious Vegas link, he spikes up the
funk to a surprising degree.
Now it’s not very polite to constantly mutter the f-word about the slick-haired
hamburger fancier. He wasn’t always fat you know. He wasn’t always funky either.
Soulful, yes. Smooth, absolutely. Rhythmic, incomparably. Funky? Rarely. But, A Little
Less Conversation, the rather rare Elvis number featured here, demonstrates that his
innovative fusion of country and R&B spilled over into all manner of stylistic
forerunners. The bass and drums have enough groove to power a steam train, the horn lines
are sly enough to trip James Brown, and the Great Pelvic Thruster is in his element,
fuelling even more smouldering suggestiveness with his phrases than with his hips. This is
the phat Elvis.
We’re also privileged with some quintessential Quincy. All of the pop polish
Quincy Jones produced with Michael Jackson is of some merit, but the shame is that it
overshadows his jazz genius. The potent piano, stuttering rhythms and brass patterns of
Blues In The Night will open the most tightly secured imagination.
Dealing a final ace with Claude Debussy’s romantic Clair de Lune (and what’s
a great crime without a little romance?), Holmes achieves with this soundtrack that rare
balance of variety and stylistic cohesion. Many of the tracks are preluded with dialogue
excerpts, and while this often has a disjointing effect, here the music segues underneath
and the irony, humour and drama of the narrative come to the fore. Soundtracks based on
jazz-funk fusion can often dissolve into blunt grooves, but this one has the sharpness of
a well-planned sting.
Published January 10, 2002