Friday, March 15, 2013

Ocean's 12 Movie Review

Where Ocean’s 11 had to rely on a montage to introduce all the members of the heist crew, Ocean’s 12 does something similar to show us where they are now, in several amusing little vignettes. The problem the second time around is that the pretense for it completely undermines the logic behind it. In each introduction we see Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) confronting them about the $160 million they stole from him. They are each, in turn, surprised to see him, despite the fact that he visits them in cities as disparate as Los Angeles and London. Wouldn’t the first guy have called all the others so they could run and hide before he got there? I suppose this is a minor logical quibble, but it always gave me an uneasy feeling just as this sequel sets itself in motion.

All these years later I think I like Ocean’s 12 slightly more than I did when I first saw it. I initially found it lacking in the camaraderie that the first film established between the characters. This time it feels more like it was harder to get them all together in the same city for very long so they end up with very few shots of the whole gang together. Bernie Mac’s character spends most of the second half of the film in an Amsterdam prison while the main heist is being pulled off – and he’s the funniest guy on the crew! Still, this one manages to maybe be the funniest of the three movies, thanks in large part to George Nolfi’s screenplay with an assist from director Steven Soderbergh, who finds the funny in Rusty (Brad Pitt) leaping from an open window to escape his detective girlfriend (Catherine Zeta Jones) in the middle of the night.

This time out it’s more Rusty’s show than Danny’s (George Clooney). In the first film, the goal was not only a whole lot of money, but Danny winning back Tess (Julia Roberts). Now it’s Rusty’s turn to win back an old flame. The downside is that she’s an international investigator who specializes in tracking thieves, two of whom in particular – The Nightfox and Gaspar LeMarque – have evaded her for years. The Nightfox (Vincent Cassel) ends up causing the Ocean crew a lot of trouble in his laying down a competition to determine the world’s best thief.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD: The most problematic aspect is that the film pulls a major bait and switch on us in the big reveal. It spends so much time setting up the heist, the scam, the con, showing the crew going over the details again and again, and even getting caught and thrown in jail, leaving only Basher (Don Cheadle), Linus (Matt Damon) and Turk (Scott Caan) to steal the object of desire. This leads to a rather brilliant little improvisation in Nolfi’s screenplay that plays on Tess’s close resemblance to Julia Roberts. So Tess has to be the shill in the con, but little could they anticipate that an actual movie star friend of Ms. Roberts is staying at the same hotel. This all plays off as some fantastic comedy. But then we learn that the heist we’ve been seeing prepared and executed all this time was a gigantic ruse and the actual heist took place much earlier, although we only get to see it in flashback snippets. This seems truly unfair and it’s a total cheat on Soderbergh’s and Nolfi’s parts. They’ve played a con on the audience, but given so little opportunity for us to be in on it or figure it out. There’s virtually no way you could guess it from the evidence provided.

Regardless, the movie still functions on a pure level of fun. Watching the team continue toying with Linus as he wants to take on greater responsibility as a con man is priceless. Caan and Casey Affleck continue their hysterical brotherly banter, and Pitt gets to don a wig that plays with his image as a magazine cover idol.

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