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Ocean's Twelve (2004) Print E-mail
Friday, 10 December 2004
If you liked “Ocean’s Eleven” back in 2001, you’ll probably enjoy “Ocean’s Twelve” as well. Virtually the entire cast has been reassembled, a few guest stars are tossed in, and it’s shot on attractive European locations (rather than Las Vegas), including Amsterdam, Paris and several parts of Italy. It’s more of a goof than the first film, both a virtue and a defect. In the first movie, we were introduced to the team of experienced thieves assembled by master thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney), and followed them as they stole almost two hundred million bucks from Vegas casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).

“Ocean’s Twelve” is briskly paced for most of its length, slowing down abruptly at about the 3/4 mark, but it wraps itself up smartly. The most telling flaw is that the script (this time by George Nolfi) isn’t as focused, doesn’t let us in on how the capers will be performed, and keeps splitting off into several linked subplots. Not enough is found for Bernie Mac or Elliott Gould to do, and though Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are around, they’re also under-used.. Julia Roberts (as Tess, Ocean’s wife) is kept off screen for most of the movie, but shows up near the end in a very amusing way that underscores the idea that Roberts is a very good sport.

The plot flashes back and forth as we see what the Eleven are up to these days. Cool second-in-command Rusty (Brad Pitt) has been having an affair with Europol detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), herself the daughter of a long-dead master thief. When she’s clearly about to discover that he, too, is light-fingered, he takes it on the lam. But mostly we see how all of them react to learning that, somehow, Benedict has learned who stole his money—and that he wants it back. They have two weeks to hand over the dough—plus interest.

Danny reassembles the team; they don’t have enough money among them to cover what Benedict feels they owe him (he was reimbursed by insurance, but that doesn’t eliminate his desire for repayment), so they’re going to have to go back into the business of thieving. In Amsterdam, they contact the oddly-named Brit Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who helps them figure out a way to steal a very valuable item from a reclusive collector. This involves moving a building, but the whole caper is only sketchily shown.

But they discover that another master thief, known as the Night Fox, has beat them to the goal. Danny suspects this guy, who we discover is an elegant, athletic Frenchman, François Toulour (Vincent Cassel), is the one who tipped off Benedict, but this idea is not well developed. Danny meets with Toulour, who proposes a challenge: if Danny can steal a valuable Fabergé egg before he can, he’ll pay Benedict his money. Meanwhile, there’s some stuff going on kind of in the background involving the greatest thief of all, known as LeMarc; Toulour was his protégé.
The various plot threads are woven together, but not very effectively; the movie sort of saunters between each element, taking its time to develop one, then the other. Meanwhile, the plot-less part of the movie—bickering, romance, scenery, etc.—continues on its own cheerful way. The locations are gorgeous, the people are beautiful, and a lot of the talk is pretty funny.

Clooney is again the king of cool as Danny Ocean, so relaxed, sardonic and witty he could be the reincarnation of Cary Grant. Brad Pitt, who looks more comfortable in well-styled suits than he did in Greek clothing in “Troy,” is again Danny’s witty, right-hand man, this time with his own romantic plot. Damon’s Linus Caldwell is still scurrying to keep up with the others. When they meet with Matsui, he, Danny and Rusty begin talking in strange, elliptical phrases. “If all the animals on the equator were capable of flattery,” Danny says sagely, “then Thanksgiving and Halloween would fall on the same day.” Rusty and Matsui nod wisely; Linus is confused. (Which, of course, is what’s intended by the others.)

Almost everyone gets a scene or two, though Bernie Mac spends most of the movie locked in an Amsterdam jail. Reiner also turns up in Rome for a few good scenes with Damon, Caan, Cheadle and Roberts. Bruce Willis, as himself, also drifts in at this point. There are a few more twists and another guest star before the movie wraps up.

Everyone looks like they’re having a great time hanging around together, tossing a few quips back and forth, and posing in front of gorgeous scenery and handsome locations. Everyone gets to wear swell clothes, too. Several interviews, usually involving Clooney, Pitt and Damon, have been published lately in which it’s very clear they’re all great friends and loved making the movie. In some cases—“Hudson Hawk,” for example—it’s irritating to watch the jolly cast cavort on screen, but here it’s pleasant fun.

A movie like this is something of a chocolate layer cake. It took a great deal of effort an ingenuity to bring it all off, but you don’t really notice—or care much—about the effort just as long as it tastes good. “Ocean’s Twelve” tastes pretty good.

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