Friday, February 04, 2005

OCEAN’S TWELVE – all style, no substance

For those who didn’t see OCEAN’S ELEVEN, the movie that precedes OCEAN’S TWELVE, the set up is as follows. A bunch of thieves and con artists are gathered together by an ex-convict named Danny Ocean (George Clooney). He plans to pull of the most audacious heist of all time: robbing the vault beneath three large casinos in Vegas owned by Ocean’s nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Benedict stands for the new Vegas – family entertainment, business practices more suited to an investment bank than the old skool, and ruthless efficiency. To cap it all off, he is dating Ocean’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). By the end of OCEAN’S ELEVEN, the gang has made off Benedict’s money and his girl. It was a sweet film. Nicely done comic performances from a superb ensemble cast with genuine chemistry; beautifully slick production design; über-cool sound-track and some nice little pop-culture references. But underlying it all was a well-crafted heist-thriller with some clever and credible plot twists. In short, the flick had something for the heart and something for the head, and gave us another reason to forgive Steven Soderbergh for that horrific SOLARIS remake.

Now, OCEAN’S TWELVE is a different kettle of fish. As it opens, the gang is on the run in Europe with Benedict on their tale demanding the original money back not to mention the interest. As a result, the gang is forced to compete with the French master-criminal, The Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), to pull off three separate jobs in three separate European cities, with a gorgeous Interpol agent (Catherine Zeta Jones) shadowing their every move. So, instead of eleven criminals pulling off one heist against one enemy, we now have twelve people versus another criminal, pulling off three heists against one enemy plus one police chick as well as sundry other complications. Now, I have nothing against complex plots per se, and I had no trouble understanding what was going on. But I did feel that the movie suffered from the clutter of plot strands and characters – none of which are given time to develop and catch our interest. In the end, the movie simply collapsed into a serious of beautifully staged vignettes – good-looking people in slick clothes hanging out in nice hotels. Sort of like the cinematic equivalent of reading Condé Nast Traveller magazine. It gets worse. Around two-thirds of the way through, this movie jumps the shark with a move so self-referential and ridiculous that it undermines the credibility of the whole project. The movie doesn’t so much wink at the audience as reach out, grab your popcorn and pour it over your head. I can only hope that this ridiculous manoeuvre sinks the franchise, but I doubt it.

OCEAN’S TWELVE was released in the US and most of Europe last December, but opens in the UK today.

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