One of the biggest coups of 2001's Ocean's Eleven was its roster of A-list stars, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Director Steven Soderbergh gathered these celebrities and others, and they fashioned a breezy and funny (albeit implausible) heist film.
Want to bet they couldn't do it again?
Well, when you're talking master con Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his gang of merry thieves, that's a sucker's bet.
It's been three years since the crew of Eleven ripped off Vegas casino magnate Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), and they've scattered across the country. But then Benedict tracks them down and threatens death, unless they can pay back the $160 million -- plus interest -- in two weeks.
So, it's off to Europe, where they figure they can plunder in anonymity. But they don't figure on a rival thief (Vincent Cassel) -- a French nobleman dubbed the "Night Fox" -- mucking things up for them. Nor are they ready to deal with Europol detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones). She shares a romantic history with Pitt's Rusty Ryan, as well as having a fabled thief for a father -- leaving her doubly motivated to catch these thieves.
With such a large cast and two new major players to accommodate, Ocean's Twelve necessarily skimps on its characters, reducing many of the performers to one-liners and other gags that carry the film along in brisk style. It also relies on the cliches of the original without further developing the characters. Matt Damon's pickpocket Linus Caldwell, for example, is still the ambitious yet naive dupe; Roberts' Tess is still disappointed in her now-husband's failure to stay straight. The film also lacks the intricate, extended heist sequence of its predecessor, so who does what is a bit vague (it would be wise to watch Eleven again before going to see Twelve).
The character that fares best, surprisingly, is Isabel. She goes through a discernable story arc, with Zeta-Jones turning in a fine performance. And Roberts has a grand old time riffing on her own celebrity at the film's climax, but it's more a gimmick than an actual plot point. Not that plot is one of Ocean's strengths, anyway. Once again, the filmmakers construct a muddled puzzle, withholding crucial information so that it can be presented as a "gotcha" at the end.
As directed by Soderbergh, noted for his extraordinary vision and style, Twelve certainly is a gorgeous treat. European cities are used as sumptuous backdrops. The stars obviously have a blast making these films, and it shows. And Soderbergh certainly has fun with the camera. For instance, we watch a plane fly overhead as if we're lying down beneath it.
Does this unique angle serve to add extra significance, to imbue the shot with hidden subtext? No, because this isn't that kind of movie. It just looks cool.
As does Ocean's Twelve. Just don't expect anything deep, meaningful, or, for that matter, terribly coherent.
Tracy Allerton can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4892.