Ocean's Twelve

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/14/04 13:53:35

"Good to have the gang back."
3 stars (Just Average)

If the 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” was sixty percent story and forty percent attitude, then the sequel, “Ocean’s Twelve,” has its ratio reversed. The plot this time around is far less streamlined, far less focused, and yet the cool factor has been amped up from even more than it was last time out, if such a thing is possible. Steven Soderbergh’s direction is an endless showcase for hipster style, everyone in the cast is as laid back as can be, and not even a faulty plotline can throw this off.

The best reason to see “Twelve,” other than a deep-rooted desire to not let the impeccable fun of “Eleven” end just yet, is to witness Soderbergh’s trickery. The director, who’s been absent on the big screen since his underrated “Solaris” remake flopped at the box office, uses this sequel as an excuse to revel in the cinematic style of late 60s mod; with editor Steven Mirrione at his side, Soderbergh attacks us with all these cool cuts and sneaky zooms and wicked freeze frames, and I half expected a young Michael Caine to pop up somewhere.

On a sheer technical level, “Twelve” is the work of a natural craftsman. So much so, in fact, that part of the reason why I was shocked to see all of those mediocre reviews for the film was that while watching, I was so swept up in the mechanics of the film that I began not to mind the story (which I’ll get to in a moment). For every half-cocked plot turn and sloppy story padding, there’s some bit of filmmaking grooviness to hook me in. As the movie played out, I didn’t mind the wrong turns. I was too convinced that I was watching something that was working on a level other than sheer narrative.

And yet that screenplay, or lack thereof, kept coming back to haunt me, long after the movie ended. This chapter comes courtesy of writer George Nolfi, whose only other screen credit is for “Timeline,” if that tells you anything. It’s not that the script for “Twelve” is bad, and it’s not that it dares to (as I rationalized it during my viewing) try something different than merely repeat the direct caper plot of the first movie. No, it’s that (and this is what hit me once the haunting began) the script lacks anything remotely resembling focus. There’s no glue here, no sense of connectivity. Be it purposeful or accidental, the movie simply rambles.

It works in pieces, however - jokes fly, scenes crackle, smiles grow. Nolfi shows a knack for quotable dialogue and eyebrow-rasing twists. But then the credits roll, all the tidbits of cleverness fade away, and you’re left thinking, hmm, that didn’t really make much sense at all, now did it? The plot, which on the surface concerns the gang reuniting to pull another caper in order to pay back Andy Garcia, goes in too many directions at once. We’re off to Amsterdam for a big job, but then that’s not the big job, and now we’re in Paris talking to some French master thief, but wait, now it’s Rome. Maybe it’s supposed to be romantic globe-hopping, but it comes off as story meandering.

Worse, the script never bothers to give us what we loved from the first movie: all eleven stars working together. Here, chunks of the group disappear for long, long, long stretches of time, and soon we’re watching “Ocean’s Three.” (It’s even arguable about who the twelfth person is, as there are two people that kinda join the gang, plus a couple more who get hired on for cameo purposes. You’d think a movie called “Ocean’s Twelve” would know exactly who all twelve are.)

That said, I had a blast anyway. However disjointed, the picture still works as entertainment - just try not to think about it too hard when it’s over. The cast offers the same old snappiness that made “Eleven” fly, and Soderbergh’s filmmaking skills keep us won over. “Twelve” may be nowhere near the level of its predecessor, but it still works as a great ball of fun.

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