Proving that 12 can be less than 11“Ocean’s Twelve,” the sequel to the star-studded 2001 caper flick “Ocean’s Eleven,” feels like a series of inside jokes. Watching it is something of a mental exercise, the problem being that the answer to the final question makes half the movie seem pointless in retrospect, even if the explanation does involve a funny mock throwdown between a Yankees fan and a Red Sox fan.
As the movie opens, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew from the first film’s casino heist have gone their separate ways. Danny and his wife Tess (Julia Roberts) are about to celebrate their “second third” anniversary. Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) is running a hotel. Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) is about to get married. Linus (Matt Damon) is in Chicago. Basher (Don Cheadle) is hosting a radio show. They, and the rest of the crew, have spent most of the millions they stole from casino mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) in “Ocean’s Eleven.”
But Benedict comes calling, with a vengeance. He tracks down each of them with an ultimatum: return the money, with interest, in two weeks, or else. (It’s of little consequence to Benedict that the insurance company covered his losses; for him it’s a matter of pride, and of doubling his money.)
So the crew reunites, apparently more upset that they’re now known in the underworld as Ocean’s Eleven than they are about having to raise millions of dollars in two weeks. Since they’re too hot in America, they decide to go to Europe for their thieving spree.
In Amsterdam, they run into Rusty’s old flame, Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and a rival thief called the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel). Isabel puts pressure on them, making it nearly impossible for them to move in public. Meanwhile, the Night Fox, outraged about the Eleven’s reputation, challenges them to a competition to see who’s the better thief.
It might sound funny on paper, but the plot and the pacing are loose to the point of being disjointed. (And what’s with the title? It sounds witty, but the 12th member isn’t clearly roped into the scheme, and some of the original 11 are never really involved.)
In “Ocean’s Eleven,” each character had a significant role to play in the heist, or at least added to the plot. In “Ocean’s Twelve,” which like the first is directed by Steven Soderbergh, the original 11 only seem to have screen time because they were in the first movie. Instead of being given time to shine, the characters are often glossed over with a short speech. A few even land in jail, taking them right out of the plot. At least they’re given elegant outfits to wear, from Benedict’s cane, suit and ascot to Pitt’s sleek belted jacket to Carl Reiner’s old-fashioned glasses.
The dialogue, which has natural rhythm, is at times brazenly tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the actors behind the characters. In one scene between Clooney, Cheadle and Affleck, Clooney asks how old he looks. The response is 50, “from the neck up.”
Some of the remarks and the cameos will probably only make sense to viewers who were really into “Ocean’s Eleven.” It’s a self-conscious movie, funny at times, but only haltingly.
Comedy / English
by Joe Yonghee