For the sequel, everyone is back, plus they've added another star, the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones, to the crew. Well, she's actually a Europol agent, so it may be debatable exactly who the "twelve" in Ocean's Twelve refers to. You'll have to watch it to find out. As you might remember, the first film ended with the crew celebrating their massive financial success after robbing three of Terry Benedict's (Andy Garcia) casinos while watching the water show at the Bellagio. The second film picks up a few years later, and each of the respective members has gone in their own directions and enjoyed their fortunes in their own way. Benedict, on the other hand, has had his mind set on revenge. With a little help, he has finally tracked down the location of each and every member of Ocean's Eleven. What he wants is very simple: His $160 million, with interest. Well, since most of the members of the crew haven't exactly been hoarding their money, they now have to find a way to get the money together to pay back Benedict or face his revenge, which is likely death.
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hears about some jobs in Europe and figures that, if they can pull off enough jobs, they just might be able to pay Benedict back and get him off their backs. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Isabel Lahiri, the daughter of a legendary thief and former love interest of Brad Pitt's Rusty Ryan. She is determined to stop the group from pulling off their series of heists. Adding another obstacle is master thief Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), who hopes to challenge Clooney and his gang to a sort of steal-off.
In a lot of ways, Ocean's Twelve seems less like a sequel and more like a completely new take on the characters from Eleven. In the first film, perhaps the greatest strength of the film was the colorful characters and the simplicity of the story. Eleven was fun not because it had the twists and turns most heist films are known for, but because you knew exactly what was going to happen. These guys are some cool characters, there is never a doubt that they are going to pull off the job, and the fun is in seeing how they do it.
This time, however, the group is bumbling and very fallible (and I'm not just talking about Scott Caan and Casey Affleck's characters either). When Benedict comes after Ocean and his boys, I'd expect a clever plan to dupe Benedict once again. Instead, these guys are legitimately scared of Benedict. He has caught them cold and their cool demeanor quickly fades. They are scared into pulling off some more heists. Ocean's Twelve is a much grittier version of a heist film. The look is more Traffic than Out of Sight, using grainy film stock here and there and constructing a world that is much more based in reality than the slick shine of Vegas.
These aspects don't make Ocean's Twelve a bad film. It's actually still pretty entertaining, just in a different way. The plot takes constant twists and turns and requires a close attention to keep up. The battle of wits among thieves between Toulour is pretty fun, and you know that Ocean is going to get the egotistical Toulour eventually, if only at the very least because he's French.
The most problematic aspect of Ocean's Twelve is that it is occasionally a little too smarmy for its own good. There are some Hollywood inside jokes (a few of which are amusing) and far too many winks at the audience. It's quite clear that Soderbergh, Clooney and the rest of the gang had fun making this film, but they occasionally forget that they are also making a film for the millions of viewers who don't know them personally or probably don't watch Entertainment Tonight nightly.
There's really very little that can be said of the cast. They stink. Only kidding. This group didn't get to be Hollywood's elite for nothing. Clooney, Pitt and Damon are great and again look as though they had a great time making the film. Don Cheadle is very good, if only underused again. Bernie Mac, Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner do their thing and are often very funny. Zeta-Jones looks absolutely ravishing, totally showing up the fading Julia Roberts. Roberts plays the part she always plays, outside of a brief amusing sequence that allows her to poke a bit of fun at herself.
Steven Soderbergh is one of the only directors to not only cross over from the indie scene, but to also bring many elements of independent film into the mainstream. At times it feels as though he's a little bored doing a Hollywood sequel. I loved the first Ocean's film and this one is still good, but perhaps Soderbergh is better suited working on completely original material so that his immense talent and creative vision aren't wasted.
Ocean's Twelve, an Italian Job
The gang may regroup for heists in Holland and Rome.Ocean's Twelve Rolls March '04
Clooney says, "The whole gang is back," and headed for Rome.Ocean's Twelve Sets a Date
Clooney is ready for another caper.Ocean's Twelve Shooting Set for Next Year
No cast list has been finalized yet, though.Ocean's Twelve Will One-Up Eleven
But the lead actors will have to take pay-cuts in the heist sequel.