Judge David Johnson presents the cast of Hollywood Squares 2015!
"We're famous celebrities and we're awesome!"
In 2001, Steven Soderbergh remade Ocean's Eleven, churning out a very enjoyable heist caper populated by big movie stars. His most recent outing brings back all the major players and adds a few new faces to spice up the mix. Is this a sequel that was worth making, or merely an excuse to get a bunch of cool people together and hang out in Europe?
Facts of the Case
It's been three years since the legendary casino heist that lightened the wallet of cold-blooded big shot Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia, The Godfather Part III) by $150 million. Benedict hasn't forgotten, and from an anonymous tip he learns who was responsible for the job: Danny Ocean (George Clooney, Three Kings) and his band of master thieves. He tracks each one of them down, demanding full repayment, plus interest. And if the deadline he's set passes, they'll all be pushing up daisies.
Danny reunites with his right-hand man, Rusty (Brad Pitt, Troy), and the two bring the whole gang back together to plan a massive job that will buy their lives. Among those assembled are young con man Linus (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity), explosives expert Basher (Don Cheadle, Out of Sight), and former blackjack dealer Frank (Bernie Mac, way underused). Even Danny's wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), is inexorably drawn into the proceedings.
However, the obstacles facing Ocean's Eleven this time are more severe: (1) There isn't a hugely paying job out there, which doesn't matter because (2) the thieves are too hot to stay in the country anyway. So it's off to Europe they go, looking for the score that will save their lives. But two new faces—Rusty's ex-girlfriend Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Traffic), a detective homing in on the crew, and Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel, Brotherhood of the Wolf), a master criminal and newfound competitor for the title "Greatest Thief on Earth"—are poised to gum up their plans.
In the interest of full disclosure, I went into this movie with low expectations. I didn't hear too many great things about it during its theatrical run, and thought the whole affair seemed liked one big showcase for plebeians like me to catch a glimpse of how cool and great celebrities' lives are. Now that I've seen it, my response to those expectations is twofold: First, Ocean's Twelve is an amusing film, sporting some very funny moments, beautiful scenery, and a couple of welcome new faces, and second, yeah, there is a sense of celebrity smugness, but not as profound as I thought.
The first point is probably the deciding factor if you're going to give this sequel a look. Ocean's Twelve is a different creature from its predecessor. The film doesn't revolve around Danny Ocean and his cronies pulling off The Big Heist. There's actually lots more stuff going on: multiple jobs, ex-girlfriend cops, more exotic locales, and a great new antagonist. I'm not saying this is the deepest movie in the world. It's not. Nor does it want to be. The point of Ocean's Twelve is to entertain the pants off of you, feed you eye candy, and send you home with a smile on your face. I think it succeeds.
This is a funnier movie than the first. It's less the straight-up how're-they-going-to-pull-this-off heist film, and more the buddy flick. Except there are, like, 12 buddies. Damon's character appears to have regressed to hapless adolescence, but his lines are some of the funniest. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan steal every scene they're in as the relentlessly combative Malloy boys. Even Julia Roberts, who I find underwhelming at best as an actress, has some really funny sequences (thanks to an entertaining cameo by…nah, I won't spoil it). Clooney and Pitt play off each other well, though they seem a lot more subdued in this film than the previous one.
But far and away the coolest of the bunch is the new guy, Vincent Cassel. His master thief Toulour is all suave, and more than a match for Danny and pals. Cassel plays him with charm to spare, and he immediately brings juice to the picture. And best of all, the writers are honest with this character; not to get into spoiler territory, but I feared his story would be wrapped up in clichéd Hollywood antagonist manner ("Ha ha, we got you, you, not-the-hero! We're the best!"). Sure, Clooney and Pitt and Damon and the rest of the guys are our protagonists, but they never come across as being that much cooler than Toulour. Which they aren't, by the way.
Okay, what about the smug factor? There are really only two scenes in the film that seem condescending. One is the final sequence, which was tacked on and superfluous, but which I guess was necessary to send the characters off (at least I hope so—Ocean's Twenty-Seven is just too much). The other is a bizarre piece of meta-narrative with Julia Roberts, where the issue of celebrity is either (a) lampooned or (b) celebrated in nauseating fashion. In reality, I think Soderbergh struck a tenuous but clever balance between poking fun at one's famous self and "I'm-damn-cool-aren't-you-jealous-ness"; others might find it less self-deprecating and more self-absorbed.
Finally, let me just give props to Soderbergh's direction. He infuses triple the energy into this film than the first. Tight zooms, freeze frames, sharp edits, color levels, and creative camera angles are all employed and set to loud, boisterous '70s throwback music. This is one hip flick, dude. Yowsers!
Warner Bros. obviously has a double-dip up its sleeve, as this release is the barest of bones. Technically it's proficient: a nice, sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a nice, loud Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. And those, friends, are the most notable features. Aside from the trailers there are no bonuses. Translation: You might want to save your money for the special edition that's sure to come.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Don't expect any big twisty-turny, complex heist sequence. The final reveal is anticlimactic, to say the least.
Ocean's Twelve is not a particularly great movie. In fact, its predecessor was better. It is, however, entertaining, and that I believe was its sole purpose. The writing is slick, the humor is on target, and the actors are having fun. It won't rock your world, but it should provide a satisfying night.
Not guilty. But let's leave it at this movie; I don't think there are enough stars left to press into "Ocean's" duty. Well, there is still Dave Coulier…
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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