Ocean's Twelve (2004) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language
Running Time: 130 min.

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Vincent Cassel, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin, Bernie Mac, Robbie Coltrane, Eddie Izzard, Bruce Willis, Albert Finney
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: George Nolfi
Review published December 12, 2004

Still a fun ride, but not nearly as well-crafted as the first.  The gang's all back, but that same magic isn't quite as present, as Ocean's Twelve plays a bit too loose, and also too long, to crack as sharp as Ocean's Eleven did so wonderfully.  Director Steven Soderbergh (Solaris, Traffic) does still score many points in the style department, with a hip funk-jazz soundtrack, cool retro vibes, and camerawork that has a dash of European new wave cinema elements.  For a bit of lush escapism, it's a breath of fresh air.  If only the storyline were a bit more engaging.

The events take place several years after those of Ocean's Eleven, as the gang that pulled off the biggest heist in Las Vegas are living off of their stolen money, some spending more than others.  Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia, Twisted), the casino owner who was taken by this heist, has been visiting each member of that gang one by one across the country, giving them all a two week deadline to repay his money, with interest -- or else.  Not wanting to go to prison, or worse, the gang pool their resources yet again, but know that they will be recognized if they try to pull a heist in the United States.  So it's off to Europe they go, but there are a few catches.  One is the sexy Europol agent assigned to major heists, Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones, The Terminal), who happens to be a former flame of Rusty Ocean (Brad Pitt, Troy), and knows he is up to no good.  The second is a crafty thief called the Night Fox (Cassel, Read My Lips), who literally steals the goods out from under them wherever they go.

Ocean's Eleven could be seen as a romantic heist movie centering on the tug-of-war between Danny Ocean and Terry Benedict for the heart of Tess (Julia Roberts, Closer), but with Danny and Tess now married, that angle is out.  Ocean's Twelve instead concentrates on the love life of the other hunky team member, Rusty, and his on again, off again relationship with Isabel.  Rusty, charismatically portrayed by Pitt, is always fun to watch, while Zeta-Jones stays classy in her role as the fox to his hound. 

Also seeing more screen time is Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy, Stuck on You), whose character, Linus, wants to be a leader within the group, although the Ocean boys soon show him how deep he is over his head at every turn.  Good laughs are had as we watch him look absolutely clueless but doesn't want to let on that he hasn't a notion as to what's going on.

Clooney gets in his moments, and Julia Roberts, while mostly absent throughout most of the film, gets in one clever scene late in the movie when she...well, I won't spoil it because the surprise is a large part of the humor value.  Sadly, the rest of the crew becomes mostly window dressing for the most part, and major players from the first film, especially Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000, Bad Santa), are hardly seen at all. 

The plot of thieves trying to outdo each other is a clever one, and with so many characters, a two hour and ten minute length would seem almost mandatory to get it all in.  Yet, despite the ambitiousness and the plethora of actors vying for precious screen time, Ocean's Twelve often feels like it's dragging its heels getting where it wants to go.  Not that it's bad, as we can take in some very punchy music mixed with some nice European vistas to admire, but in a heist film, the lackadaisical approach is not the best way to go.  The last half hour in particular, where things should really pick up steam, diffuses into languishing shots and talking heads, and what should be exhilarating barely raises our pulse levels as we stare in confusion watching cons outdo cons in flashback mode.

For all its faults, which really aren't too many, Ocean's Twelve is still a worthwhile jaunt for all fans of the first film, with enough clever twists, cheeky asides, beautiful locales, and funny actors to justify the price of admission.  It's still a step below its predecessor in all of the important ways, but it does stay hip and sly throughout, and if it never really grabs you, there are plenty of moments for breezy fun.  After the first film, which was on my list of the ten best films of 2001, I was ecstatic about the possibilities of a sequel, but after this satisfying but occasionally dull entry, I'm starting to think there's no gas left in the creativity tank for our irreverent heroes.

-- Followed by Ocean's Thirteen.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo