Ocean's 12: Steven Soderbergh Conned Me Out of Eight Dollars!
Dec 17, 2004
Pros: some fun moments, Pitt, Zeta-Jones, some clever lines, nice scenery
Cons: PLOT, Julia Roberts, pacing
The Bottom Line: She could steal, but she could not rob.
It's appropriate that a hologram is one of the central concepts in Ocean's 12 because the film is all image and no substance. Steven Soderbergh's latest release is messy, self-indulgent, and, at times, just plain boring. Leaving the theater, I felt like a victim of one of Danny Ocean's schemes since I'd been conned out of eight bucks for the ticket.
The A-list stars breeze around Europe, and Soderbergh uses fancy, moving camera angles, cameos, and jumps in time indicated by title cards in an attempt to distract us from the fact that the plot makes no sense. If you were to go back and put all the events into chronological order, it wouldn't fit. A wouldn't follow B, and C would just be unnecessary. Sure, the witty banter and camaraderie of the con men is fun, but can't a film be entertaining and have a decent plot?
While 2001's Ocean's Eleven was a fun and compelling heist movie set in Las Vegas, the sequel is all over the place. Writer George Nolfi couldn't come up with a coherent storyline this time, so he has the guys pulling two hastily planned robberies instead of a brilliantly elaborate one.
At the start of the film, all the members of Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) gang are spread throughout the world, living off of the fruits of their huge Vegas take. Robbing the Bellagio casino a couple of years back has left them wealthy. As the title indicates, there are a dozen guys living separate lives, which we see, so the first few scenes feel excessively long.
Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) is living in luxury in Rome, but he can't give up the life of crime. Despite the fact that he's living with renowned detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), he can't stop stealing. Danny lives with Tess in Connecticut, so we know he's bored.
Everything is going smoothly until Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and his goons decide to track down the eleven thieves and make them pay back the money they stole from him... plus interest. They have two weeks to scrape together the $190 million in cash or he'll kill them. Benedict finds the men in somewhat humorous ways, but the opening scenes take far too long. In general, Ocean's 12 puts up a lot of cash, but there's little pay-out.
The guys jet off to Amsterdam (but where are the drugs and hookers?) and find that their biggest obstacle is not security systems or police but a rival burglar called The Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), who is truly a smooth criminal. He's a ridiculous character, and this plot line seems to exist mainly so that the Americans can defeat the French. He drinks wine, eats cheese, and does a silly dance. *Snore!*
How Isabel fits into the plot is cliched and over-played, too. She's a cop who has sympathy and admiration mixed in with her hatred of criminals. However, Catherine Zeta-Jones manages to look both gorgeous and adorable thanks to glamorous makeup, stiletto heals, and a pixie-esque haircut. Sadly, she has no chemistry with the equally gorgeous Brad Pitt.
The other couple, Tess (Julia Roberts) and Danny Ocean (George Clooney), is a bit more believable, but Roberts looks mildly annoyed throughout the movie. Her character could have been spunky and multi-faceted, but Roberts isn't a strong enough actress to pull it off. The makeup artists must have been on strike during her days on the set since she looks rather dreadful. Clooney looks so smug that you want to smack him.
Another detail of the film is that Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) wants to take more of a leadership role in Ocean's group. I found his whining and brown-nosing tiresome, and he's not nearly cool enough to be a con man. As much as I'd like to see a Cambridge, MA boy succeed, he'll never be as charismatic as Brad Pitt. His buddy Casey Affleck, sporting a horrendous mustache, seems useless in this film, along with fellow drone Scott Caan.
The most entertaining characters, Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle with an odd, fake cockney accent), and Reuben Tischkoff (Elliot Gould) aren't used enough in this film. Although, with Tischkoff and Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), maybe Nolfi and Soderbergh decided that having two old, stereotypically Jewish con men was a bit of overkill.
In order for a heist movie to be successful, the robbers have to be likable enough for you to want them to pull off their scam. In Ocean's Eleven, Danny et. al. are stealing from casino owner Terry Benedict, who is not exactly reputable. In the sequel, however, the guys are trying to lift a work of art from a European museum! OK, so they're good-looking, but their charm wears off fast when they're trying to steal from the good guys.
Think I'll be seeing Ocean's 13? I won't be fooled again.