Release Date: December 10, 2004
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
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.
Another problem is the characters. Those who were so engaging and indispensable the first time around are now straw men, and many of them barely even have a line. Rusty, who was always eating in “Ocean’s Eleven,” seems to be on a diet. He and Danny share some of their characteristic repartee, but not nearly enough. The one saving grace is Damon’s Linus, who has become a politically-correct super geek with great qualms about robbing a handicapped billionaire.
There are too many characters to sort through, which is probably why they all end up in jail, leaving Tess (Julia Roberts) to come to their rescue. About to celebrate her second third-year anniversary with Danny, she is none too thrilled to be dragged into the mess, especially when she discovers she must pretend to be a movie star. It’s an interesting scene to see Julia Roberts playing Tess playing Julia Roberts, who talks to the real Julia Roberts on the phone, at the request of Bruce Willis (as himself). I’m sure the stars got a huge kick out of this, but it doesn’t really work. And what a drag that the real Roberts had to give birth a few weeks before the film came out, which makes the unpregnant Julia playing Tess playing the pregnant Julia, complete with a pillow, completely redundant.
To add to the melee, we also get a few more cameos – from Topher Grace, Peter Fonda, Robbie Coltrane and British comedian Eddie Izzard. It’s all a bit much, but maybe that’s what happens when you adapt a recycled script (by George Nolfi, whose only other credit is 2003’s “Timeline”) that was never made for or about these characters to begin with. The dialogue is good, though, with more than a few laughs. At least it’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Director Steven Soderbergh (“Full Frontal,” “Erin Brockovich”) who’s usually top notch, seems a bit off key here. His scenes are jumbled and tend to be confusing, although his grey-toned cinematography and dimly-lit indoor scenes give the film a realistic edge. All the actors do a good job, too. They’re just given too little to work with and too few distinguishing traits, which means we not only don’t connect, but don’t always understand what is going on. So, while Soderbergh is to be commended for rounding up his entire cast for a second round, I’m not sure he should have. In this case, less would definitely have been more.
Because the first film was so enjoyable, it’s hard not to be disappointed with this one. If, that is, you can figure it all out – something I’m still working on.
AUDIENCE: Adults only.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Average. Various characters smoke cigarettes and cigars; one scene where dozens of empty alcohol bottles cover several tables; various scenes in bars and restaurants with background drinking and/or where character takes a sip of alcohol.
- Language/Profanity: Average. About a dozen obscenities (including multiple f-words that are “blipped out” by a censor machine, in a recording studio) and a half-dozen profanities.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Mild. One scene with unmarried couple in bed (no nudity).
- Violence: Mild. Thieves commit multiple crimes but never use violence; police chase after thieves and arrest them, sometimes with guns, but no violence.