Yes, it was a rehash of the cheesy Rat Pack vehicle, but Ocean’s Eleven was a clever heist film that deftly balanced an all-star cast and low key humor. Because it made money, the inevitable sequel is now rearing up its well-coifed head.It’s almost as if director Steven Soderbergh and company lucked out with the first film but have forgotten part of what made the first one work. All of the principals are back, but the new script by George Nolfi doesn’t distribute the workload that well. This time around, Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle have almost nothing to do, and Scott Caan and Casey Affleck take up more screen time, but aren’t that interesting.
In this installment, the crew have to reluctantly return to their thieving ways because casino proprietor Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has found all 11 of them and has demanded they return every penny of the loot they sole from him, with interest. They only have two weeks, or they’ll be dead.
Because the notoriety from their last heist, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the crew can’t launch another big robbery in the States. Instead they fly to Amsterdam but run into trouble because another master thief known as the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel, Irreversible) also covets the objects they’re trying to steal.
If that weren’t challenging enough, Rusty (Brad Pitt) has an ex-girlfriend (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who just happens to be a cop determined to bring both the Eleven and the Night Fox to justice.
The new setup allows for some great locales and introduces some intriguing characters (Robbie Coltraine and Eddie Izzard are a lot of fun), but the storyline is problematic. The surprise ending doesn’t conform to any of the facts established earlier in the movie, so it strains credibility to the breaking point. We don’t exactly need realism, but it would be nice if the film’s internal logic worked.
Ocean’s Twelve is hardly a complete washout. The dialogue is still lively (check out the bizarre exchanges between Coltraine, Clooney, Pitt and Matt Damon). Damon seems to be having fun playing a thief who’s trying a little too hard to demonstrate his leadership skills to the rest of the gang. David Holmes’ jazz-tinged score is catchy and gives the rest of the film a vitality the narrative lacks.
Speaking of the material, Ocean’s Eleven managed to keep the inside jokes to a minimum so they didn’t become distracting. When Topher Grace showed up in a cameo as himself, it was rather funny because Soderbergh didn’t belabor the point.
When the actor reappears in Ocean’s Twelve sporting his own moniker, it’s more forced than amusing. There are a lot more of these moments throughout the film, and your affection for the stars involved will determine how much you’ll be willing to tolerate their winking asides.Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack knew better than to repeat the success of their tacky showcase. Soderbergh and his cohorts might have been wise to follow their example