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Film Review: Ocean's Twelve
Tue Dec 7, 2004 09:32 PM ET
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By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Energized by the good will established in the 2001 hit "Ocean's Eleven" and favored with an even larger, more glamorous cast in fabulous European locations, "Ocean's Twelve" nevertheless has a hard time getting untracked. It's once again a heist movie, of course, with Hollywood stars playing cool cats gifted in larceny. Only this time the plot mechanics get in the way.

Director Steven Soderbergh, working with a new writer, George Nolfi, makes a crucial shift in strategy: Instead of audiences feeling a part of a nifty conspiracy to pull off an audacious robbery, viewers are left largely in the dark as Soderbergh & Co. conspire to trick them with sleight of hand and misdirection. However much one might enjoy these tricks, the film provokes more intellectual than emotional interest. Whatever its shortcomings, though, with Catherine Zeta-Jones and European star Vincent Cassel added to the first film's top-notch cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts, the film should prove a box office powerhouse in North America and overseas.

The story came together from a desire by Soderbergh to reassemble his "Ocean's" team for a sequel set in Europe and his discovery of a screenplay by Nolfi about a competition between the great thief in America and the great thief in Europe. Soderbergh and Nolfi retooled that story to accommodate a large cast of characters that includes newcomers Isabel Lahiri (Zeta-Jones), a beauteous Europol agent, and Francois Toulour (Cassel), a wealthy French playboy who moonlights as a thief.

The story contains more time shifts than H.G. Wells' "Time Machine" as it tracks back and forth, deliberately leaving huge gaps to keep audiences from guessing what is really happening. Essentially, three years after Ocean's guys ripped off Terry Benedict's Las Vegas casino and Danny Ocean (Clooney) won back his ex-wife, Tess (Roberts), someone rats them out to Benedict (Andy Garcia), who tracks them down one by one. He wants his $160 million back -- with interest -- or else. The gang quickly regroups from the various hideaways and decides to flee to Europe to pull off enough robberies to fulfill Benedict's demand.

In Amsterdam, they run into two major roadblocks: The first is Isabel, a smart and ambitious agent, who is always a half step behind them. Perhaps it's because she once had an affair with Rusty Ryan (Pitt) or maybe because her father was a famous thief himself. Worse, though, someone else is one step ahead of the gang. A mysterious thief known as the "Night Fox" beats them to their very first treasure.

Then it all comes together. The person who ratted them out was Francois, aka the Night Fox. Seems he is furious about the growing reputation of Ocean's gang as the greatest thieves in the world. He challenges them to see who can steal a Faberge Egg from a Roman museum first. Unlike the Vegas job, things continually go wrong for Ocean's gang. Police get tipped off, key members are arrested and one guy ends up in the wrong city.

Things go wrong with the screenplay as well, as many subplots flounder. Nolfi never finds interesting ways to use Bernie Mac's casino worker Frank Catton or Casey Affleck and Scott Caan as the squabbling Malloy brothers. Elliott Gould's casino owner and Carl Reiner's old-school crook barely show up. And the film certainly doesn't get enough bang from the wonderful Don Cheadle, who plays the cockney explosives expert.

Even Clooney's character ceases to be the focal point during one section as the continuing attraction/animosity between Pitt and Zeta-Jones threatens to derail the Ocean Express. Damon's rookie pickpocket is again a comic foil, while Shaobo Qin's acrobatic grease man once more proves to be a guy who can worm into small spaces. And Roberts' Tess must fly to Rome for an eleventh-hour rescue when all else fails.

Stephen Mirrione's fast-paced editing and David Holmes' pop-rock score propel the story ever forward whether one follows the twists or not. Cinematography by Soderbergh (and Peter Andrews) mixes his usual inquisitive hand-held camera with more conventional angles to good effect. Locations in Monte Carlo, Lake Como, Paris, Amsterdam, the Hague and Rome provide sumptuous backdrops.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Village Roadshow Pictures a Jerry Weintraub/Section Eight production.

Cast: Danny Ocean: George Clooney; Rusty Ryan: Brad Pitt; Linus Caldwell: Matt Damon; Isabel Lahiri: Catherine Zeta-Jones; Terry Benedict: Andy Garcia; Basher Tarr: Don Cheadle; Frank Catton: Bernie Mac; Tess Ocean: Julia Roberts; Francois Toulour: Vincent Cassel; Virgil Malloy: Casey Affleck; Turk Malloy: Scott Caan; Saul Bloom: Carl Reiner.

Director: Steven Soderbergh; Writer: George Nolfi; Based on characters created by: George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell; Producer: Jerry Weintraub; Executive producers: John Hardy, Susan Ekins, Bruce Berman; Director of photography: Peter Andrews; Production designer: Philip Messina; Music: David Holmes; Co-producers: Frederic W. Brost, Gregory Jacobs; Costume designer: Milena Canonero; Editor: Stephen Mirrione.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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