Steven Soderbergh, USA, 2004
Posted: December 14,
Ah, to be rich, famous, beautiful and in the company of friends.
Ocean's Twelve, the sequel to Steven Soderbergh's 2001 hit remake
Ocean's Eleven, has had
mucho ink spilled about the ridiculous amounts of fun the A-List cast had
over in Europe while making the film. Indeed, it appeared that the
camaraderie that hadn't quite gelled in the first heist yarn was in full
"Rat Pack" form the second time around. Which, if nothing else, hinted at an
entertaining piece of vanity fluff.
Surprisingly, Ocean's Twelve fails to translate the purported good
times to the big screen, offering instead a downtrodden tale of a group of
thieves desperate to save their necks and failing miserably at it. Still,
even though the plot is rendered irrelevant with a too-easy-out ending, it
would have at least been nice to have had a little more wink and a smile
from our chummy powerhouse talents. Cannonball Run II may have been a
stinker, but at least you could tell everyone was in on the gag.
First, the excuse for the film's existence: Bellagio casino owner Terry
Benedict (Andy Garcia) wants the money Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his
ten cohorts stole from him. If Benedict doesn't get his money back, with
interest, in two weeks, it's curtains for the gang. Since the group can't
pool $160 million plus interest together to appease him, they naturally have
to pull another heist to cover the debt. The U.S. is apparently "too hot"
for the boys to operate in, so it's off to Europe to steal something really
valuable, like, say, a Faberge egg, currently on display in Rome.
So, it's Ocean's Deux: European Vacation -- only not nearly as
entertaining. Obviously, the death threat ratchets up the tension, but it's
not really all that palpable. Benedict acts more like an irritable bank loan
manager than a mob tough. He sits at his desk, smokes expensive stogies and
patiently waits for his money. Further, allowing the Ocean gang to leave the
country for parts unknown isn't really the smartest move to make. But this
isn't a film that's supposed to make sense. It's intended to be a megawatt
"name that star" thrill ride.
Soderbergh doesn't help matters any by utilizing the rapid-zoom surveillance
film style seen in his award-winning Traffic. And the usually jocular
Clooney and wry Brad Pitt (returning as co-ringleader Rusty Ryan) play their
parts far too straight. Matt Damon is slightly better, bringing a comic
over-earnestness to his budding criminal mastermind Linus Caldwell. But gags
that might have seemed cheekily cool and metafictional on paper instead come
across as too self-consciously self-absorbed. Case in point: Having Danny's
wife Tess (Julia Roberts) pretend to be famous movie star Julia Roberts
during the egg's heist. Bruce Willis' embarrassingly manufactured cameo only
adds to the lame silliness of the scene.
And the points where Ocean's Twelve teases at campy possibility are
sadly underplayed. Vincent Cassel's amusingly named Night Fox (where's
Spider-Man when you need him?) is a bored aristocrat and self-proclaimed
world's greatest thief who challenges Ocean and company to a Faberge
egg-stealing contest. If he wins, well, they die, and he really will
be the world's greatest thief. If they win, he pays off their debt. (How
convenient.) Sure, it's ridiculous, but with a plot this loopy, it actually
could have been great fun.
But we never get nearly enough Night Fox (shots of him doing power aerobics
just don't cut it) and way too much time with the real justification for the
movie's existence: Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing a Europol agent determined
to catch Ocean and crew. Why? Well, because they're crooks, but more
importantly, because she's Ryan's former flame, and her father was a
legendary thief who (allegedly) died in jail. Thus, rather than Night Fox
and Danny Ocean trying to outwit one another, we get Ryan trying to reunite
Zeta-Jones' character with long lost daddy. Yes, folks, it's that contrived.
Ocean's Twelve is less fun than the tabloids and rumor mills have led
the general populace to believe. So the question is, why does it exist at
all? Well, if it does anything like the first film's box office, the team
will be able to pay off its Bellagio debt and even put a down payment on
Ocean's 13: Baker's Dozen. Consider our collective breath sufficiently
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