Ocean's Twelve is one of those rarities. The film, which opens this Friday nationwide, has taken an already good crime caper with comedic tendencies and turned it into a hilarious comedy with a bit of a criminal edge.
Twelve takes its audience 3 years past the finale of Ocean's Eleven (the 2001 semi-remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic) to a group of specialized criminals who have scattered since their high profile theft at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. As we find out in the beginning of the film, Rusty Ryan (played by Brad Pitt) has taken a girlfriend named Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who also happens to be a Europol agent who tracks down high profile thieves. As their conflicting interests lead to a quick split, we soon find that Ryan and the rest of his cronies from The Bellagio heist are also being sought by their old mark Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Through information from another thief who has broken the first rule amongst thieves, he has found a way to track down each of the eleven, leading to a funny and insightful look into the lives of the crew that audiences didn't see in the first installment. The most humorous scenes find the Malloy twins (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck) at an engagement party for Virgil at a bar, Yen (Shaobo Qin) taking on the lifestyle of rap star, computer specialist Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) attempting a stand-up career and financeer Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) who is visiting a psychic to plan his next stock market move.
The rest of the plot breaks down into three avenues. The first is the crew's attempt to steal an additional $160 million for Benedict who has given them two weeks to return his money even though insurance has already refunded the amount they stole. Since they're still being watched in the United States, they decide the only possibility is to pull the job overseas where they run into a master thief known only as "The Night Fox" (played by Vincent Cassel).
Although their feat is every bit as impossible as the Bellagio heist, the plot direction is significantly less intricate and less impressive than the first. It does keep the audience interested and along the way provides three cameos (one noticeable, one not-so noticeable and one that takes the plot on a slapstick turn) and beautiful landscape shots (Rome, Paris, Lake Como and Monte Carlo).
Their jaunt to Europe also reunites Ryan with his estranged girlfriend Isabel who is not only on the hunt for "The Night Fox," but upon discovering the familiar tactics of her ex-boyfriend, also enters an investigation to take down Ocean's Eleven (although an unexpected twelfth member ends up getting involved as well). This second plot line leads to yet another cameo at the end of the film, but provides nothing more than a mismatch of screen chemistry between Pitt and Zeta-Jones.
The third plot line involves Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) who takes on a considerably larger role in this film than in the first. After admitting to spending some of his Bellagio money on "talent development" to build a crew for himself, he tells Ryan that he wants to take on a larger role in this heist. It's great fun watching the former pick-pocket work his way through the intricacies of approaching the much more slick Ocean and Ryan, speaking in code to an informant and trying to hold the bag when their robbery takes an unexpected turn for the worst.
Where Damon shines and takes more of the spotlight in the ensemble, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), Terry Benedict, Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), the Malloy twins, Livingston Dell, Yen and Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) all take considerable steps back from the story. Although they are mentioned frequently, the focus is placed more evenly on Ocean (Clooney), Ryan (Pitt) and Lahiri (Zeta-Jones) and Caldwell (Damon).
The comedic highlights come from Damon's naïve stupidity as Linus Caldwell and Elliott Gould's over-the-top eccentricities as Reuben Tishkoff. Their antics alone are worth the price of admission and certainly add the main ingredient that allows director Steven Soderbergh to leave the unfair comparisons of the Rat Pack original and create a franchise (it's possible to see a third being made) all his own.