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Ocean's Twelve

  Ocean's 12
"But what if I really want to talk about Fight Club?"

© 2004, Warner Bros.
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The problem with test screenings is that they don't give you a very good idea of what the end product will actually look like. It's difficult to judge something that hasn't really been pieced together fully. But in an effort ... What's that? This wasn't a test screening? It was the actual theatrical release? Well then, I guess I'll have to justify my dislike of this flop.

First off, director Steven Soderbergh is a smart and funny man (just read "Getting Away With It" if you have any doubts). It's reasonable to expect more from him than what "Ocean's Twelve" (IMDb listing) delivers, especially considering the solid performances turned in by Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Clooney in particular. He may be the closest thing we have right now to a Cary Grant or a Clark Gable. You can see it in the physical confidence of his acting, and it's just that kind of touch that makes this movie's failure to coalesce downright disheartening.

And that just about covers everything positive I have to say about "Ocean's Twelve," so let's move along. At some point in my lifetime, there developed a clear divide in the minds of moviegoers between entertainment value and good story. If the distinction makes any sense to you, then maybe you'll see merit in this film where I see only vapidity. Maybe you'll see cleverness where I spot lazy scripting. Maybe you'll even convince yourself that there's innovation at every turn, though I struggled to see more than dressed-up cliches from start to finish.

Ignoring, for the moment, the "Being Julia Roberts" subplot that royally fucks up the last third of the picture and helps make it way too long, let's take a look at the laser beam sequence. It's an idea that might have worked, but like so much of the film's content, Soderbergh just can't find a way to make it sing. So, instead of holding our breath for Vincent Cassel's villainous character as he acrobatically weaves his way through a randomly programmed minefield of security lasers, we laugh at him. It's really too bad, because Cassel's physical and dramatic talents are one of the film's most promising ingredients -- until the laser beam sequence comes along. It's like being transported from a schizophrenic heist movie into a postmodern ballet. Unfortunately, "Ocean's Twelve" has no more in common with "Invitation to the Dance" than it has with "Topkapi."

The overall deficiencies of "Ocean's Twelve" can be reasonably summed up in the following way: It plays out like a series of disconnected ideas being lobbed back and forth by a pair of college buddies over a few pints. And it never comes together. A couple of examples: Our boys hit upon the idea of jacking up a house they intend to rob, just so they can make an otherwise impossible crossbow shot into the house from the roof of a building across the street. This shot, it turns out, provides the means for a high-tech solution to disabling the home's elaborate security system. A hell of an idea -- with absolutely zero payoff (unless you value Catherine Zeta-Jones' uncanny ability to piece this shit together for us). Another would-be key moment is painstakingly set up and similarly denied its follow-through, thanks to the aforementioned Julia Roberts subplot. This time Ocean's motley band of bratty burglars have their sights on a priceless Fabergé egg. Their contract gadget man comes up with a brilliant hologram to stall the discovery of the authentic egg's disappearance. Again, an excellent plan, but how the hologram-generating equipment gets installed prior to the burglary remains a mystery to this reviewer. Nor do I see what all the fuss is even worth, since the heist takes a decidedly anticlimactic turn when Ms. Roberts' character is forced to pretend she is in fact Ms. Roberts. Ugh.

Soderbergh had some good individual concepts to draw from with this movie, no doubt about it. It's just a shame that none of them comes off. Heist films ought to be acutely conceived and edited with great control. This film can boast neither accomplishment and fails on the whole, despite the odd "moment" of modest effect. Granted, my favorite Soderbergh film is "Schizopolis," so you may wish to weigh that against my opinions of "Ocean's Twelve." I've also never seen the original "Ocean's Eleven" or Soderbergh's remake. Maybe it would help if I did, but I tend to doubt it. Maybe Albert Finney could have propped this movie up if he'd been given more than an uncredited cameo near the end, but I doubt that too.

Filmfodder Grade: D+



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