Catherine Zeta Jones
It’s been three years since Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew robbed Las Vegas entrepreneur Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of every dime stored in his impenetrable vault. After splitting the $160 million take, each of the crew have tried to go straight, lay low and live a legit life… but that’s proven to be a challenge. When someone breaks Rule Number One and rats them out to Benedict, going straight is no longer an option. Benedict wants his $160 million back – with interest – or else.
Since they are too hot to work in America, they decide to hit Europe in the hopes of recouping the money and their lives. Naturally, there are roadblocks. For one, there is a Europol agent (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who knows one of the crew on a rather intimate level and two, there’s some competition who might have had a hand in ratting them out to Benedict.
In the press releases, Ocean’s Twelve has been described as “harmless fluff”, a film where you go, shut your brain off and enjoy rich, beautiful people having fun in exotic locales. If done right, I have no problem accepting that as entertainment.
As a matter of fact, I did. Three years ago – when it was called Ocean’s Eleven. That film had Ted Griffin’s screenplay as a solid foundation that allowed a great ensemble cast, its winning chemistry and Steven Soderbergh’s tight directing to elevate it from what could have been a run of the mill remake of a dull 1960s movie into a great piece of popcorn entertainment.
The sequel has no such sturdy foundation. George Nolfi’s script, originally meant to be a John Woo film, lacks the basic three act structure: it has a first act that works as an okay setup, a second act that contains an occasional laugh and a third act that still remains unwritten.
In fact, I am certain that Soderbergh and crew (or perhaps their assistants) made up the last 40 minutes as they went along. When a certain ‘twist’ happens in Act Three, the film goes down faster than a character in Alexander and it never recovers. Alleged ‘surprises’ are telegraphed two miles away and the only laughs one will hear are the ones from the people onscreen, laughing at us for paying money to see such tired filmmaking.
So how could Steven Soderbergh, one of my favourite directors, be the ringmaster behind this traffic accident? Was it the promise of easy money or the allure of a summer work holiday in Europe with his friends? It might have been both; it certainly would have been for me. One thing is for certain: the material couldn’t have been a deciding factor.
As far as the cast goes, Clooney, returning cast members Brad Pitt and Matt Damon and series newcomer Catherine Zeta-Jones do actually give it their best shot, but even they succumb to the dreaded ad-lib monster in the end. Julia Roberts shows up as Danny’s wife, Tess, again, but she is so whiny and irritating that you are grateful for her absence for most of the movie. Everyone else who returns are around for a few scenes each and don’t make as much of an impression as they did three years ago.
Ocean’s Twelve isn’t one of the worst films of the year, but it just might stand as the biggest letdown. When you have a director and cast as great as what we have assembled here, only to deliver such mind-boggling mediocrity, you can’t help but walk away with your film-geek heart dragging on the ground between your legs. Pray that we are all spared of Ocean’s Thirteen.