Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ocean's 12

Ocean’s 12
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
2004, rated PG-13
4 stars

Sequels have a long, sad history as some of the worst films ever created. Hardly ever is there a sequel that does justice to its predecessor, or even comes close. For some unknown reason, Hollywood film makers keep thinking that if a movie has done well, then the best course of action to take is to create a horrible successor, often with little or no plot, that relies completely on the success of the first. These cheap knockoffs are painful not only to the audience that gets duped into watching them, but also for the original film, which risks losing its charm in the shadow of the dismal effect of its sequel. However, sometimes a rarity occurs, and a sequel actually does justice to its precursor. Since this happens at about the same frequency as a UFO landing, it makes the film seem all the more remarkable and entertaining. Ocean’s 12—Steven Soderbergh’s sequel to his 2001 hit Ocean’s 11—is one such sequel.

The original cast is back, with all the famous faces and names, along with the excellent performances, and with a few excellent additions. The Ocean’s 11 team of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), his wife Tess (Julia Roberts), organizing master Rusty (Brad Pitt), the engineering geek brothers Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Caan), “grease man” Yen (Shaobo Qin), smooth dealer Frank (Bernie Mac), explosives expert Basher (Don Cheadle), amateur pickpocket Linus (Matt Damon), old-time conman Saul (Carl Reiner), paranoid computer nerd Livingston (Eddie Jemison), and financial backer Reuben (Elliott Gould) come back together to face a new, huge problem. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), whom the group stole from in the last film, now wants his money back, and will do anything to get it. Having tracked down each member of the crew, Benedict gives them all exactly 2 weeks to return the cash, much of which they don’t have. As such, the group must now go on a thieving binge to steal back everything they’ve spent. They decide to hit Europe, planning a series of robberies that will provide enough to pay off their debt. Everything is thought out and planned perfectly. What they didn’t plan on, however, was the existence of an amazing rival-thief called “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel), who is bent on showing them up at every turn and foiling all their plans. Rusty’s old girlfriend, detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) also appears, and is determined to track them down and arrest them all.

These characters have lost none of their original charm. Each is as excellently amusing as they were in the first film. Rusty maintains his cool composure and sometimes cryptic speeches, Linus is still as insecure and desperate to please (perhaps sometimes even a little too much so), and Yen—perhaps the most enjoyably intriguing character in the film—still speaks only in Chinese with no subtitles to help out the audience, and fits himself into impossible positions for incredibly extended periods of time.

As in the previous film, Ocean’s 12 spends a lot of time on the specific maneuvers required to pull off each incredible stunt. These explanations, done with creative camera angles and set to fast-paced, rhythmic music, are an excellent way of keeping the audience informed while not losing the film’s momentum. However, while Ocean’s 11 was a sleek, polished, Hollywood-style film, Ocean’s 12 takes on a slightly different look. The film begins with the grainy appearance and washed-out colors more common with independent films. Also, in the beginning, the camera work is shaky, with rough cuts and scene changes. As film progresses and the team regains its former composure, so does the film, and towards the end it relapses to the Hollywood shine of its predecessor. The plot often resembles that of Ocean’s 11 as well, but with a few more twists and turns. So many new pieces have been added, in fact, that the film takes on a labyrinthine quality which may leave some a little dazed and confused.

While confusing at times, the film does clarify itself in the end, sort of. You have to pay pretty close attention to everything that’s going on, and watching it a second time might prove helpful. The film is immensely entertaining, and incredibly good as a sequel. Just as long as they don’t go for lucky 13.

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