DVD Review Of Ocean’s
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 12/23/05
A lack of pretension can cover a multitude of sins- even the lack of a plausible script. Such is the premise that Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake of the Rat pack classic 1960s caper film, must have been pitched at studio executives with. Simply put, never has a film about less, with less characterization and more smug mugging for the camera ever worked better. There were a plethora of such films in the 1960s, both American and European, and even Japanese, but none with the star power this film has. Style, on very rare occasions, can trump substance, and this film is that exceptional one that proves that substance usually is king.
Ok, what of the plot? In the first film Danny Ocean (George Clooney)and his crew stole $160 million from the casino of a big time casino owning mobster named Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). This film opens three years later, with all eleven thrives hunted down and given a deadline with which to pay back the money with interest, or die. Of course, there are plot holes galore. The whole set up is untenable, and the fact that such smooth operators would so easily expose themselves is ridiculous. Still, there are some really funny scenes of Bernie Mac in a massage, Rusty (Matt Damon) as a lap dog, and assorted other funny scenes. Only Ocean manages to escape such a threat- but not for long, as he re-teams with the others to make things right.
Meanwhile, we learn that Ocean’s plan was revealed to the mobster by a rival jewel thief, called The Night Fox (French film star Vincent Cassel), who lives like a king in Italy. His reason? He was dissed by a legendary thief who proclaimed Ocean the better criminal, so he sought his vengeance in setting Ocean and company up for revenge. Meanwhile, there is Catherine Zeta-Jones, as an agent named Isabel Lahiri, with Europol, which seems more interested in thieves than terrorists. Of course, I’m not complaining, as the goddess Jones gets more screen time than any other actor in the film, as I could just look at her for two hours and be satisfied, especially when she’s made up to be extra exotic and sexy to match her character’s vaguely Subcontinental name. But, she is Brad Pitt’s ex-lover- the sort of complication that only happens in these sorts of films, as well as somehow related to the legendary criminal, although she won’t find out until the end.
After going to Europe, with a deadline, to recover the money or die, the gang ends up in a contest with their rival thief, to steal a famed bejeweled Faberge egg. The details, again, are of no matter. Ocean wins, as he outfoxes his rival into stealing a bogus egg, gets the money to repay the debt, and goes off to live with his wife Tess, who is really Julia Roberts, and in a nod to PoMo, actually, as Tess, portrays a fake Julia Roberts, who meets up with the ‘real’ Bruce Willis, to help her husband in the egg stealing caper that we later learn has no significance, since offscreen, we later find out that Ocean has rigged things in his favor, to the undercurrent of Iron Butterfly’s Muzaked version of Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida (some nice scoring is done throughout by David Holmes). Of course, Ms. Jones is on the prowl, and in pursuit, until the contest is over, and she buddies up with Ocean’s criminal band, most likely because she knows she’s gonna get stiffed by Brad Pitt that night.
As I said, mere fluff is the hallmark of this film, but it not for a second pretends it is anything more. Good for it. Steven Soderbergh is the rare director who can do serious drama and fluff. I just wish he’d get back to original masterworks like The Limey, from 1998, and give up on the remake kick (Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, Traffic, etc.). The DVD has a top notch transfer, but that’s all. Almost as if recapitulating the style and no substance theme, the DVD only has a trailer, with no commentaries, featurettes, nor anything else. Too bad, as listening to some of the big names riff on the fluff would have been entertaining, if not interesting. And that is the core of this whole endeavor- entertainment, pure and sweet. Thus, old-timers like Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould share the screen with bit players like Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac, and the whole thing soars like a Eurotrash film from the early 70s, with its freeze frames, scoring, and playful camera techniques.
What I find amazing is how many reviewers panned this film. It reminded me of the roasting the 1998 Hollywood version of Godzilla got; as if a film about a big lizard stomping on New York would or should have been Oscar caliber? This is why I started off talking about pretense, and its ability to salvage potentially bad films. In this case, it works, and so does the film. Now, if Ocean’s Thirteen were smart it would just focus all on Ms. Jones. Sometimes pretense has its charms!
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