Release Date:  December 10, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for language)
Genre:  Action/Comedy/Crime
Run Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.
Director:  Steven Soderbergh
Actors:  George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts

I’m not really into Roman numeral movies.  You know, “Halloween II, III and IV,” and all the others like them.  With the rare exception of, say, the early “Rocky” sequels, they seem to lack that all-crucial element of surprise that makes a film worth seeing.  So it was not with great expectations that I ventured to see “Ocean’s Twelve,” nor was I surprised when it did not live up to its predecessor.  I just didn’t expect it to be so confusing.

Three years after Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang robbed the supposedly impenetrable Bellagio Casino in Vegas, Mafia boss Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has found them.  It doesn’t matter that Benedict’s insurance company reimbursed him for the loss; he wants his $160 million back – with interest.  Eh, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, capice?

Too bad everyone has either spent their take or lost it in bad investments, because they now have two weeks to come up with the cash – or they’ll swim with the fishes.  So the crew heads off to Amsterdam, where Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Danny’s right-hand man, has a high-paying gig – not to mention an old flame, Eurpol Chief Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones).  See, Rusty had to make a hasty exit three years ago, right before Isabel busted him for a jewelry heist, and the two aren’t exactly on speaking terms.  So Danny, Rusty and the other nine – pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), explosives expert Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), safecracker Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), Turk Malloy (Scott Cain), Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck), Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), Livingston Dell (Eddie Jamieson) and Yen (Shaobo Qin) – head to Europe, minus Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), who is too old to be bothered by a little thing like hitmen.  Once there, they pull off the heist by ingeniously raising a house from its waterlogged pylons, only to discover that another thief has arrived before them.

“The Night Fox,” as he is called, is one of the best in the world, but Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel) is jealous of Danny.  Apparently his boss, a thief by the name of “Le Marque,” made an approving comment about Danny’s abilities.  So Toulour offers Danny a deal: they go after the same target – a Fabergé egg.  If Toulour wins, Danny will admit that the Frenchman is the best thief in the world.  But if Ocean gets the egg, then Toulour will pay off his entire debt, $198 million, to Benedict.  Danny agrees, but the beautiful Isabel is right behind them, following their every move.  May the best thief win.

The plot takes a long time to get rolling, with Benedict tracking down and threatening each of the gang members in turn.  When they finally get to Europe, the various heists unfold with disorienting flashbacks.  Unfortunately, they’re also somewhat inconsistent, with the same frustrating outcome that is only overcome in the final scene.  However, this conclusion is not only improbable, but falls outside the parameters of “fair game” for heist movies.  Instead of letting the audience in on the twist, allowing them to look back and see what they overlooked in an “aha!” moment, it makes us feel cheated.