Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by George Nolfi
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine
Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Vincent Cassel, Bernie Mac,
Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck,
Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Andy Garcia and Julia
natural, really. When a movie makes a $192 million
domestic gross, the immediate inclination these days
is to rinse, repeat, and see if you can make even
more money with a sequel. So I can hardly blame Warner
Bros. or Steven Soderbergh and his cast of Hollywood
heavyweights for wanting to make a follow-up to the
2001 hit remake "Ocean’s Eleven." What
I can blame them for is for making an uninspired,
only sporadically funny and rather pointless follow-up. "Ocean’s
Twelve" is the kind of movie in which everyone
involved clearly had a great time, even if they didn’t
much care about making a good film.
"Ocean’s Eleven" was kind of brilliant
in its own way; the writing was fantastic, the actors
had impeccable chemistry and even better comic timing.
This time around, the chemistry is still there, but
most everything else has suffered. In fact, most
of the movie slides by on nothing but chemistry.
Despite some really funny moments, it’s hardly
a worthy sequel, and it follows in this year’s
unfortunate trend of highly anticipated, big-budget
disappointments, joining the company of "Troy," "I,
Robot," "The Village," "The Polar
Express," and "Alexander."
The script, credited solely to George Nolfi ("Timeline"—you
know, that crappy Paul Walker movie?), was adapted
from Nolfi’s script, "Honor Among Thieves," which
was originally intended to be a John Woo action picture.
That should tell you something right there. It’s
amusing to imagine the thought of Danny Ocean (George
Clooney) and Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) inexplicably
leaping through the air, two guns a-blazin’,
a la "Mission: Impossible 2" and "Broken
Arrow," but, come to think about it, that would
make just about as much sense as a lot of what happens
in "Ocean’s Twelve." Nolfi’s
writing isn’t as strong as Ted Griffin’s
was in the original. A lot of the time, the actors
just seem to be improvising—sometimes it worked,
and sometimes it didn’t.
"Ocean’s Twelve" is basically one
big in-joke, as if the cast and crew were much more
interested in amusing themselves than anything else.
It seems like every other scene was another in-joke,
another farce, like the scene when Tess (Julia Roberts)
becomes involved in the heist (wink wink, nudge nudge,
say no more, say no more).
But given that the cast all seem to prefer goofing
off to making a good film, "Ocean’s Twelve" is
probably better than it should be. Credit goes to
Soderbergh, a master director who gives this sequel
with style and, dare I say, panache. Soderbergh—who
once again serves as his own director of photography
under the pseudonym "Peter Andrews"—finds
a lot of great location shots that help create the
film’s sultry, sumptuous European atmosphere.
And considering how much of a jumbled mess this story
really is, Soderbergh does a fine job piecing it
all together, making it seem like he’s really
telling a cohesive story.
He isn’t, but I’ll try to summarize
anyway. Somehow, Terry Benedict has found out who
stole his $160 million three years ago, and he wants
it all back—with interest. Since the crew is "too
hot" to work anywhere in America, they decide
to go overseas and try to pull off a series of jobs
to make up the money. In a tiresome opening 20 minutes,
we are reintroduced to all the characters, as Benedict
confronts all of them, one-by-one. The 20-minute
sequence is tedious and pointless—seriously,
guys, we get the point. He’s mad. Let’s
Even more characters are involved than in "Ocean’s
Eleven." The guy who tipped off Benedict about
who stole his money is a master thief dubbed "The
Night Fox," played by French actor Vincent Cassel.
A competition is formed between Danny and The Night
Fox to see who can steal a famous Faberge egg. Oh
yeah, and there’s a cop hot on everyone’s
tails, Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who
coincidentally happens to be a former lover of Rusty
(Brad Pitt). There are several flashbacks to their
once-passionate relationship, and voila! We have
our first subplot.
If I seem a little too harsh on the film, I don’t
mean to be. There are actually quite a few very funny
scenes, even a select few that could rival some in
the original. For example, in one great scene in
a bar, Robbie Coltrane plays a crook who helps the
crew find their next big score, and who seems to
communicate only in an extremely elaborate code.
The three others involved in the scene – Danny,
Rusty and Linus (Matt Damon) – play the scene
perfectly straight, creating one of the most entertaining
scenes in the film.
But scenes like that are too few, and the in-jokes
are too many. The self-awareness grows tiring. Consider
the aforementioned scene when Tess has to help out
with the heist. Now, while some reviewers may have
already spoiled the little twist that drives this
scene, I won’t. But suffice it to say that
what happens obliterates all possibility of suspension
of disbelief. Is it kind of funny? Yes. Is it also
very stupid? Yes indeed. I chuckled, but I felt like
an idiot for having done so, knowing that I was being
made a fool of. I wanted my endorphins back.
The film’s two climactic sequences completely
lost me—maybe they were trying to be a bit
too clever. The first, which involves the Night Fox,
is so completely illogical and makes so little sense,
it’s almost insulting. (Doesn’t anyone
know what the word ‘random’ means?!)
And when I thought about it, I realized that it,
too, might very well be yet another in-joke, this
time in reference to Zeta-Jones’s heist thriller "Entrapment." The
second climax – the movie’s ultimate
resolution – is practically impossible to understand.
I found myself asking such question as, "Wait,
what was—," "But how did—," "But
when—," "Wait, did they—," and
of course, "Wha…?
But then, all those paled in comparison to the most
important question of all: Who cares