In 2001, I was delighted to see Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the celebrated 1960 crime caper, “Ocean’s Eleven”. Aside from the outstanding ensemble cast (that featured such luminaries as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, and Andy Garcia), what made the 2001 original so good was the crackling, fat-free screenplay by Ted Griffin (“Matchstick Men”). Aside from being devastatingly witty, Griffin also penned characters that were interesting to watch, because of their individuality and quirkiness. To top the proceedings off, there was also an elaborate, spectacularly staged heist. That sequence alone was worthy of applause. Unfortunately, “Ocean’s Twelve”, written by George Nolfi (“Timeline”) does not award the audience that luxury.Set three years after the events in “Ocean’s Eleven”, the gang find themselves in deep trouble when casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) calls on them and demands his $160 million back, plus interest, within two weeks. Since they are “too hot” in the States, they must find somewhere else to run their business. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his team are off to Europe to steal a diamond-encrusted egg. To make matters worse, Rusty (Brad Pitt) is closely hounded by Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Europol agent… and his ex-girlfriend.
"An inside joke that I didn’t get."
To be quite honest, most of the characters in “Ocean’s Twelve” don’t even seem like the same ones from the original. How could they? A good portion of them are so thinly written, and aren’t given nearly enough screen time to register with the audience. Whereas they all had ample time in the original, they are just window dressing. Steven Soderbergh is such a skilled director, and it’s to his credit that he gave harmless fun like “Ocean’s Eleven” urgency and weight. However, I doubt that anyone could have helped this film’s pace. It felt like the longest two hours of my life. The love story between Rusty and Isabel should have been very sexy, considering that the characters are played by two of the world’s most beautiful people. It comes off feeling stale and flat, almost as if it never goes anywhere... Oh, and remember that really cool heist I was talking about before? The heist for this one is only two minutes long. Wait… Yeah, two minutes. I sat there, watching it, and said to myself: “That’s it?”
The sole character to actually benefit from Nolfi’s screenplay is Matt Damon (“The Bourne Supremacy”), whose Linus Caldwell is desperately trying to join the top of the team. The only other actor in this film who looks like she did some productive character work is the rarely impressive Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”). Her performance as Isabel is authoritative and, in some of the later scenes, quietly touching. Julia Roberts (“Closer”), Casey Affleck (“Gerry”), and Scott Caan (“Dallas 362”) also have some choice moments. Everyone else (including Don Cheadle, Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, and Bernie Mac) is there only because they were in the original. At least, that’s what it feels like. Shockingly, I believe that George Clooney (“Solaris”) only clocked in less than 1/3 of the running time. This is not good, considering he is playing the title character.
Vincent Cassel (“Irreversible”) is okay as villain François Toulour. He is like the Terry benedict of "Twelve". Unlike Benedict, however, he is not very memorable. He enters the game about half-way through, and seems to come out of nowhere. Speaking of Benedict, I constantly forget that he was in this film. His role here does not make much of an impression. Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”) makes a funny cameo as himself.
That being said, there is some attractive photography by Chris Connier and Soderbergh. The filtered images of Rome and Amsterdam are impeccably shot, and almost as beautiful as the cast. As with the original, the jazz-infused score by David Holmes helps to liven the pace a bit, even when nothing is happening (which is quite often). The undeniably slow pace is aided, to a minimal degree, by Stephen Mirrione’s slick editing.The final five minutes of the film are what appears to be the wrap party for the cast. They are all shaking hands, hugging, drinking, and having a few laughs. This is the part where the audience can enjoy a sigh of relief; the characters that they have grown to love are well and happy. Looking around in the dimly-lit theatre, all I saw were people gathering up their coats and leaving. Judging from that footage, the film looked like it was a lot of fun to make. And, I’m sure it was. I just wish I was in on it.
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originally posted: 01/04/05 13:09:44