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Belfast Telegraph Home > Lifestyle > Twentyfourseven

Ocean's Twelve: Shallow, illogical and predictable, but I love it
Steven Soderbergh's crime caper sequel has been given a rough ride by some critics, but Michael Wlsh thinks it really rather a lot of fun

By Michael Walsh
featureseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

04 February 2005

OCEAN'S TWELVE (12A, 125mins)

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Vincent Cassel

Three years ago Steven Soderbergh brought us his loose take on the Rat Pack film Ocean's Eleven. The result was a fun, breezy, glossy star-packed crime caper and the reaction was pretty much universal acclaim.

Flick forward to the here-and- now and Soderbergh's follow-up arrives in the cineplexes.

It is - guess what - a fun, breezy, glossy star-packed crime caper. The reaction? He's criticised for making a ridiculous heist flick that creaks under the weight of its combined stars' self-satisfied playing. What a difference a few years make.

Anyway, call me shallow, call me superficial, call me star- struck, but I thought Ocean's Twelve was a bit of a blast.

The set-up is this. It's three years after Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his card shark pal Rusty Ryan (Pitt) masterminded the daring theft of $$160m from nasty Las Vegas casino tycoon Terry Benedict (Garcia).

Danny is struggling to settle into a life of domestic contentment with wife Tess (Roberts), while Rusty is losing more than he ever made as a criminal in the hotels business.

The rest of the crew, meanwhile, are living out their sometimes bizarre dreams with varying degrees of success. We get the feeling that a life of crime is what many of them were cut out for and their subsequent pursuits are a bit of a comedown.

All this changes when, after three years of searching, Benedict finally catches up with them. It doesn't matter that he's already recovered his dosh from the insurers. He gives Ocean and co two weeks to repay the $$160m plus interest - or else, he intimates, something rather nasty will happen to all of them.

And so all the gang gather again - including pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Damon), veteran con artist Saul Bloom (Reiner), security expert Reuben Tishkoff (Gould), Cockney explosives wizard Basher Tarr (Cheadle) and Chinese acrobat Yen (Qin) - and they head off to Europe for a jolly jaunt to steal some of the continent's most priceless treasures.

This also gives Rusty a chance to catch up with former flame Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a dedicated Europol agent.

Also standing in the way of their plans is playboy Francois Toulour (Cassel), who has a dual identity as master thief The Night Fox.

Things don't go that smoothly for our boys and by the time they've shifted their attentions from Amsterdam to Rome, they've even been forced to recruit the number 12 of the title - Danny's wife Tess - in a bid to keep themselves in the game.

Soderbergh's film is a snazzy, zippy affair that is less concerned with plot coherence than it is with charm and surface. There's no particularly well- rounded characters, there's no gripping storyline and there's no profound (or otherwise) lessons to be learned. But if, like Quentin Tarantino's recent Kill Bill offerings, Soderbergh's work has become more style than substance, then what style.

Ocean's Twelve may be over two hours long, but there's rarely a dull moment. The plot twists back and forth, and although Soderbergh sometimes throws logic out the window, the whole look of the movie is fabulous.

The real joy of Ocean's Twelve, though, is the dialogue. Screenwriter George Nolfi's script is a real treat with many of the best moments in the film coming from the verbal interplay between the various members of the crime crew.

Damon, in particular, delivers some marvellous lines. At one stage in proceedings he asks: "Doesn't anyone here have a problem, morally, stealing from a handicapped guy?". After a moment of contemplation, "Naw, we don't care," the rest of the gang respond.

A similar question could be asked of Soderbergh. Doesn't he, with all his talent, have a problem, morally, with making such escapist froth as this?

I guess if he doesn't, we shouldn't either.

At cinemas provincewide. Cinema listings, P22-24

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