© 2004 Ray Wong
Danny Ocean and his gang are at it again, but this time it’s not about money or love.
Three years after the Ocean’s 11 stole $160 million from Terry Benedict (Garcia), they’re not doing all that well. Though now blissfully married to Tess (Roberts), Danny (Clooney) has “retired” into a quaint little town, itching and fretting. Rusty (Pitt) is broke, digging a huge financial hole with his failing hotel business. Linus (Damon) is still struggling with his talent company. The rest are either retired or doing something they’re not passionate about.
To their surprise, Benedict tracks them down, one by one, and threatens to either kill or send them to prison if they don’t return the money plus interest, within two weeks. The gang is $97 million short. They quickly assemble again and leave for Amsterdam, as they know they’re hot properties in North America. Tipped off by an underworld contact (Robbie Coltrane), they set out to steal a rare stock certificate from an agoraphobic recluse. But their heist is one-upped by another master thief, the legendary Night Fox. Soon Danny tracks down Night Fox, who is really a Frenchman named Francois Toulour (Cassel). It’s Toulour who tipped off Benedict. He presents Danny with a challenge: Whoever first steals a priceless jeweled egg in Rome can claim to be the best thief in the world. If the Ocean’s 11 win, Toulour will pay Benedict the money they owe, if they lose, Benedict will have them at his disposal.
Meanwhile, Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Zeta-Jones) is hot on the trail after the Ocean’s 11. You see, she has a personal vendetta, too -- she and Rusty were once lovers, before Rusty left her and disappeared after a “job.” And Ocean’s 11 officially becomes Ocean’s 12 when Tess is pulled into the scheme after most of the group are arrested.
The cast does an adequate job recapturing the original’s camaraderie and spirit. Clooney (INTOLERABLE CRUELTY) and Pitt (TROY) play off each other very well. Damon (BORNE SUPERMACY) has a better role this time around, and offers some of the film’s more humorous moments. Roberts (CLOSER) also has a bigger role, honing her comedy skills and spoofing her own public persona in a funny plot twist. Zeta-Jones (THE TERMINAL) is sexy as the cat chasing the mice. Cassel is interesting to watch as the suave but oily Toulour.
However, the roles of the supporting cast are diminished. Gracia (TWISTED) is left with not much to do, other than huffing and puffing, acting like a Godfather wannabe. Mac, Affleck, Caan, Qin, Cheadle, Reiner, Gould et el are reduced to throwaway roles. Bruce Willis and Albert Finney do manage to show up for their excellent cameos.
Written by Nolfi (TIMELINE) and directed by Soderbergh (SOLARIS), OCEAN’S TWELVE is a slick, by-and-large entertaining con-within-a-con story. The plot is rather convoluted, but not entirely indecipherable if you pay attention. Unfortunately, due to the large and ever-expanding cast, the characters quickly cede to the background. While the original flick wasn’t character-driven anyway, we came to know this eclectic group of con artists and appreciate their personalities, dynamics and interactions together. Such is rather lacking in the sequel.
In keeping the plot moving, there are plenty of plot holes to go around. For example, it takes Benedict three years and all the resources he has, and he still can’t find the Ocean’s 11, but it takes only days for Toulour. And it only takes a few hours for Rusty to find out the identities of Night Fox and his mentor La Marque, when the Europol has been looking for them for years.
OCEAN’S TWELVE is clever with a certain joy watching the entertaining schemes unfold. What is missing, however, are the original’s spirited banter and the clockwork-like coordination within the group. While the original gave us adrenaline-pumped, climatic sequences of an actual heist, much of the dirty deeds are either off-screen or revealed in fast-cutting flashbacks in this film. The excitement is replaced by slick comedies and clever commentaries. Also missing are poignant moments such as the water fountain or the ‘Tess-realizing-what-a-weasel-her-husband-really-is’ scene. In their place is a certain lingering, ‘Hey look at how clever we are’ smugness. As it is, OCEAN’S TWELVE is all fluff. Let’s hope OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (and you can bet they’ll make it) will have more heart and soul, and be less self-congratulatory.
Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Vincent Cassel
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: George Nolfi
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief language, adult themes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total Score – 6.7 of 10