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Twelve thieves a'thievin'
By Wil Moss,
December 10, 2004
When you hear the cliché "It's the most fun you'll have at the movies all year!" that's usually a good sign to avoid that particular film like Cool Springs at Christmastime. But Ocean's Twelve honestly is probably the most fun you'll have at the movies all year - no lie.

It's just as light and carefree as its prequel, 2001's Ocean's Eleven, only this time things don't go so smoothly for the gang. Last time, George Clooney (the titular Danny Ocean) and Brad Pitt rounded up a gang of thieves to rob casino owner Andy Garcia of $160 million. Now Garcia has found them, and he wants his money back.

Pitt and Clooney organize another heist or two, taking them to Amsterdam where they run into Pitt's ex-girlfriend/detective Catherine Zeta-Jones, and ending up in Rome where another thief, the Night Fox (Francois Toulour), awaits with a challenge.

It really is amazing to see a film like Ocean's Twelve. There have been plenty of well-done films, and there have been plenty of big celebrity-ensemble films, but the stars rarely align so that you get both in one movie, so why does it work here? The main reason for the success of this film and Eleven is the pairing of old-school, powerful producer Jerry Weintraub with talented, maverick filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as director.

Weintraub has done everything from organizing Elvis' first national tour to producing films like Nashville and the Karate Kid series to serving on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his buddy, then-President Bush Sr.

Soderbergh laid the groundwork for modern-day indie cinema with his first film sex, lies and videotape in '89, moving from one unique project (Schizopolis) to the next (Gray's Anatomy) in the meantime, recently emerging as an Oscar-winning director of films like Erin Brockovich and Traffic - all of which he directs, lights, edits and shoots on his own. Any other combination of producer and director would result in a film that lacked this star power or quality.

Of course the actors play a part too, with Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Elliott Gould especially standing out. Unfortunately, a cast this big and a more-complicated plot leave little room for actors like Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner or Bernie Mac to shine or even do very much. I'm sure scheduling made things difficult, but the film perhaps could have shared the love a little more with the rest of the cast.

But it's not about love; it's about cool. The film is all about that certain type of grace-under-pressure smugness. Seeing Pitt and the rest constantly exude that vibe may annoy some, but it's a heist film - these guys are supposed to be super cool. The camera and the score (by composer David Holmes) seem like the 13th and 14th members of the group with all they add to the film, riffing with each other like live jazz.

Ocean's Twelve is just a smart caper film. There's not a whole lot else to it, nor should there be. In a lot of ways this is better than the first one, which surprises me since after Eleven I didn't think they could sustain a Twelve. But now I can only hope the stars align again for a lucky Thirteen.
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