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Ocean's Twelve

Steven Soderbergh, USA, 2004

Rating: 2.7

 

Posted: December 14, 2004

By Laurence Station

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 baited.

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