Ocean's Twelve Movie Review

Casino boss Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has caught up with Danny Ocean's merry band of hipster crooks, and he wants his $160 million back -- with interest.

As "Ocean's Twelve" begins, the disbanded gang that cracked Benedict's "impenetrable" Las Vegas vault in 2001's Rat Pack remake has been backed into a collective corner and given two weeks to pony up. But that's the least of their troubles.

A cunning, foxy Europol detective (Catherine Zeta-Jones) -- and former love of the group's card shark (Brad Pitt) -- is barely half a step behind them (and sometimes half a step ahead) as they reunite to execute a string of elaborate heists on the Continent, hoping to hold off Benedict with the proceeds. What's worse, the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), the world's most notorious cat burglar, is making a spiteful habit of hitting every safe and museum on their itinerary just hours (if not minutes) before Ocean's would-be plunderers arrive to do their thing.

As you might imagine if you've seen "Ocean's Eleven," the pretzel plot of high-tech break-ins and long-con knavery gets only more complicated from there, and the minutia of it couldn't stand up to much logical scrutiny. But director Steven Soderbergh knows that -- and even embraces the fact by taking self-aware meta-comedy to a level of capriciousness that few directors could pull off without seeming either inane or smug. (Example: Julia Roberts plays a character who poses as Julia Roberts to help her husband pull off a sting.)

Yet even as Danny (smooth, cool, winkingly charismatic George Clooney) and his crew are impeded by rivals on both sides of the law, the director keeps an adroit and amusing balance between his movie's broad heist-flick appeal, its pointed in-jokes, and -- gasp! -- actual character development.

Leave it to Soderbergh, an unpretentious auteur who so easily transitions between Hollywood ("Erin Brockovich," "Ocean's Eleven") and oddball independent flicks ("Schizopolis," "Full Frontal") to find the time between heists-gone-wrong to give his returning cast (including Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Bernie Mac and others) additional intricacy to chew on, making for entertainingly sharp performances.

Thick with intelligently ironic humor and directed in a style that successfully melds big-budget commercial appeal with the free-form indie sensibilities of Soderbergh's artistic soul, "Ocean's Twelve" may be plausibly porous and as disposable as an emptied tub of cinema popcorn. At 130 minutes, it's a little self-indulgent as well. But with its wit, its wily dexterity, the whimsical awareness of its own absurdity, and its way of inviting the audience to the party, the film is an absolute gas nonetheless.

This is not a movie that requires you to check your brain at the door, but a movie for those who like their good dumb fun to be a little smarter.

Comments

Ocean's Twelve Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, December 10, 2004

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