Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Shaobo Qin, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Vincent Cassel

MPAA Rating:  (for language)

Running Time: 2:10

Release Date: 12/10/04

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Review by Mark Dujsik

The original Ocean's Eleven (and by that, I mean Steven Soderbergh's 2001 remake) had an undeniably cool feel to it. I mean, there's no other word to describe it but cool. The minimalist dialogue crackled, the cast clearly had fun, and Soderbergh threw in enough visual trickery to keep the entire affair engaging. Now we have a sequel, unimaginatively titled Ocean's Twelve, and it feels too much like a reunion. Soderbergh and the cast return, but screenwriter Ted Griffin is out. His presence is much missed, especially considering George Nolfi's rambling, unfocused script. Ocean's Twelve meanders for a considerable time, looking for a plot, and by the time the movie hits its stride, it's a bit too late. There's genuine momentum to the movie once it's actually gotten in gear, but then the last act comes along and brings the movie right back where it started—only this time fumbling for an ending. The pacing during the downtime is more tedious than breezy, and as much fun as the actors are clearly having, their amusement doesn't transfer past the screen.

Three years after the daring heist that simultaneously cleared three casinos of their vaults, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is living out retirement but still subconsciously checking out the next score. At home, his wife Tess (Julia Roberts) is awaiting her husband's return to celebrate their second third anniversary, when who should arrive at the door but Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the man from whom Ocean's Eleven (as the gang has been dubbed) stole one hundred and sixty million dollars. Even though the insurance company covered his loss, he wants it back—plus interest. Terry also managed to hunt down the rest of Ocean's pack, who have also moved on with their lives, and he makes them a deal: give him over one hundred and ninety million dollars in two weeks or die. There's no choice, really, so the crew decides to head to Amsterdam, where they have much lower profiles than in the States. There they have a contact Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who offers them a chance to slowly make the money they need. There are a few problems, though, in the form of a Europol detective named Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a fellow thief named the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel).

After a complicated and ultimately pointless attempt to steal a rare document from the home of an agoraphobic, the Night Fox challenges Ocean to a thief-off of sorts. The target is a priceless Faberge egg, which will be on display at a heavily secured museum in Rome. Around this point that the movie starts to feel at ease with itself, but up until then, it's fairly routine and uninteresting. In one sequence, Terry individually encounters each of Ocean's posse, and despite one or two amusing views of the thieves' new lives (tech nerd Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) as a standup comedian, explosives expert Basher (Don Cheadle) mixing music and having his expletives buzzed out by natural noise, and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) handling a teenage movie star as manager of a hotel), the series of catching up scenes gets tiring (much like the length of this sentence). The group dynamics feel stale compared to the previous film, and the dialogue lacks playful liveliness. Instead, Nolfi concerns himself with the plot, forcing elaborate scenarios onto the characters and yet giving them very little to do.

Once planning for the robbery gets started, things pick up. The relationship between Rusty and Isabel, who were together until she was about to catch on to his involvement in a theft, adds a tender layer, and the way Isabel begins to fraudulently proceed in making her case against Ocean's band makes her more than an ordinary foe. In a nice twist, Tess is recruited to take part in some of the scheming because she looks like someone famous.  The scenes involving this development bring the in-jokes to a level of comprehension that has been missing beforehand (most of the movie feels like an in-joke we aren't a part of), and they hold one of the movie's many successful cameos in the form of another famous face who could spell ruin for the con. The heist itself is enigmatic, in that what has actually happened is hidden until a series of flashbacks near the end. The actual conclusion raises a few red flags in terms of logic and the necessity of multiple plot developments. Either the entire thing hinges on the actions of an unseen puppet-master, who either has an incredible knowledge of human behavior or psychic abilities, or it means that everything after a certain point has been done to keep the audience misled.

Whatever the truth of the situation, it comes across as far too convoluted and feels too much like a dupe. Perhaps Ocean's Twelve tries too hard, maybe it's not trying hard enough, or possibly the problem is a little of both. The script certainly juggles more than it can handle, and Soderbergh seems too confident that the cast and his flair can make us overlook that fact. The result is an unconvincing sleight of hand trick.

Copyright © 2004 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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