Big Jim Stevens (Edward G. Robinson) has a reason to celebrate: today is his birthday and as leader of Chicago's mobster underworld, all of the gangsters under his command have assembled to pay tribute. Or so he thinks, for after he gives a heartfelt speech, his right hand man Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) calls on them to show their appreciation, which involves drawing their pistols and shooting Big Jim dead in a hail of bullets. Now Gisborne is their leader, and he is demanding a fifty percent cut of their profits, or else. But what will Big Jim's favourite Robbo (Frank Sinatra) say?
Robin and the 7 Hoods was considered the final Rat Pack movie, but not by all, because Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop were nowhere to be seen here due to various disagreements, so for some even this one doesn't count although it does have Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr in it (but then, wouldn't that mean Cannonball Run II is the final Rat Pack effort?). Whatever, this had all the hallmarks of an indulgent showbiz moneymaker: a bit of comedy, some chances for the stars to play act being bad guys, and a dash of song and dance to keep the fans happy.
Nobody is really terrific in these films, but they have amassed a loyal cult who are content to see these titans of entertainment in a glamorous setting. That said, for a supposedly expensive enterprise all that surface gloss looks suspiciously like a feature length television sitcom, with flat lighting and obvious sets. This means the film relies heavily on star wattage to keep our interest, and the plot is merely a flimsy excuse to bring on the next gag set up or, more rarely, the next musical number, as they are few and far between.
It's actually over an hour before Sinatra even sings, which may be too much for some people, and what songs there are, from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, usually last about a minute not including the dance routines that some of them feature. But when he does sing, it's in a collaboration with Martin and Bing Crosby in his last musical, performing showstopper "Style", which turns out to be predictably the best thing in the whole movie. Crosby is involved as Alan A. Dale, a do-gooder who runs an orphanage which Robbo donates his ill-gotten gains to though not through any noticeable altruism, simply as a plot point.
The allusions to the legend of Robin Hood pretty much extend into the title (which you get the impression was thought up first) and the character's names, although a strange bit of business sees the hoodlums turn out to be fully aware of the legend (well, sort of) but have not made the connection with their names and those of yore. There is a suspect attitude towards women, who if they are not there to be ogled then are otherwise represented by Marian (Barbara Rush), the duplicitous daughter of Big Jim who uses her charms to cause trouble for anyone who does not willingly go along with her plans. There is other stuff about Robbo going on trial on trumped up charges for murder and beating Prohibition, but really you're waiting for Sinatra to sing "Chicago, My Kind of Town" and ignoring the criminal status of the heroes, which does not endear them, to be honest. Music by Nelson Riddle.