Hail To The Thief
directed by Steven Soderbergh
starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vincent Cassel, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle
Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow
There has always been something alluring about heist films. Audiences love the elaborate cons, touchy relationships and inevitable duel of wits between cops and robbers. Then of course, there is the actual heist itself, nontraditional, never small, and always a difficult escapade. Steven Soderbergh knew this when he made 2001’s box office smash, Ocean’s 11, meshing a great cast, a dysfunctional couple and the high stakes world of Las Vegas casinos with the perfect caper that left audiences clamoring for more. For an encore, Soderbergh has made the subtler, more sophisticated Ocean’s 12, pulling off a cinematic miracle of high stakes escapism reminiscent of many classic ’70s European heist films.
“Pitt + Jones”
The script, grafted onto the Ocean’s 11 from George Nolfi’s screenplay, Honor Among Thieves, follows all the rules of a great heist film, before breaking them. It’s full of crisp dialogue, clever wordplay and lots of nefarious thievery set amongst the most gorgeous of European locales.
This time around, the game is afoot as the entire ensemble reunites, pitting the greatest thieves in America against the greatest thief in Europe. The film opens three years after Ocean’s 11‘s caper, robbing ruthless Vegas casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of $160 million dollars. Danny Ocean (George Clooney), his wife Tess (Julia Roberts) and the rest of the gang has gone underground, maintaining a low public profile and doing little to arouse suspicion. All of this gets upended when someone violates Rule Number One, ratting out Ocean’s crew to a vengeful Benedict who then pops up all over the place threatening to kill them within two weeks if they don’t return his money (about $190 million, with interest). With a pressing deadline hanging over their heads, Ocean’s crew springs into action.Realizing that the Bellagio heist made the team too high-profile to work in the States, Ocean and his right-hand man Robert Ryan (Brad Pitt) decide their best course of action is to pull a serious of quick high stakes jobs in Europe to pay off Benedict. Unfortunately, Ocean realizes that their plan is not as easy at it appears when he discovers that Ryan’s ex, Europol agent Isabel Lehiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is hot on their trail. From here, things get a little sticky. Isabel, who still hasn’t forgiven Ryan for leaving her high and dry, is in the midst of tracking renowned European thief Francois Toulour, nicknamed the Night Fox (a sly Vincent Cassel) who has baffled and frustrated detectives with a series of thefts, taunting his victims and boasting of his triumphs along the way. Ocean’s 11 discovers this first hand after he outwits the crew when an attempted Amsterdam heist goes awry.
This forces a classic battle of wits and sticky fingers, as Danny Ocean must cut the only deal he can to pay off Benedict, a competition against the Night Fox to settle once and for all who is the better thief. As the competition heats up Ocean’s 12 struggles to stay one step ahead of the law and two steps ahead of the Night Fox. It becomes obvious that the team needs a twelfth member to pull off the con of a lifetime.
Soderbergh’s best strength as a director is letting his actors act. This film, like its predecessor, features outstanding performances from its ensemble cast of big names. George Clooney returns as Danny Ocean, a smarmy yet affable thief looking for a way out. Clooney doesn’t mug it up so much here; that duty is handled with relish by Brad Pitt, who benefits by having his character rounded out. Julia Roberts, who got somewhat lost in the first film, takes Tess in a new direction, poking fun at her celebrity in the process. But the real winners here are Matt Damon, who, like his character Linus, gets ‘more to do,’ assuming a larger role in the operation, and Catherine Zeta-Jones who gets to be ‘thee girl’ without dumbing herself down. Watching her interplay with Pitt is pure joy.The public should be warned that Ocean’s 12 is a completely different movie than Ocean’s 11. The comedic nuances and symmetry within the ensemble that engendered the first film with audiences remain, but because the movie is broader and warmer in tone, something has to give, making it the perfect example of having too many cooks spoil the soup. The plot drags in places and never really fleshes itself out. Sorrowfully, it fatally omits meatier bits for Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle and under-utilizes the brilliant Elliott Gould.
Nonetheless, Ocean’s 12 delivers the basics that all big-budget films chock full of stars should. It entertains and enthralls the audience. This worked with Ocean’s 11 and it’s also, albeit to a lesser extent, why Ocean’s 12 remains one of the high-profile sequel successes of the season.
Ocean’s 12: www.oceans12.net