Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Movie: Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

My dislike of the 2001 OCEAN’S ELEVEN verges on the irrational. It’s not out of loyalty to the 1960 original, which, to borrow a phrase from Mel Gibson, is as boring as a dog’s ass. And it’s not because of what many critics perceive as the remake’s smugness. I have no problem with a stylish director working his mojo and an attractive cast standing around looking cool.

I don’t like the new OCEAN’S ELEVEN because it’s a lousy heist picture. Nobody on the crew is squirrelly. It’s a given in a heist picture that there’s at least one guy on the job you’re not 100% on. Consider the Brando/DeNiro film THE SCORE, which came out the same year. There are only three guys working that caper, and you’re not sure about two of them. But none of Danny Ocean’s boys are toying with a cut and run. They’re as solid as New Hampshire granite. Come on. There are eleven of them, for Christ’s sake.

So I was a little apprehensive about seeing the sequel to the remake. (Now there’s a depressing sentence.) But see it I did, because I can’t resist a Steven Soderbergh movie. He’s the most consistently interesting mainstream director in Hollywood. Anyone who can make both OUT OF SIGHT and SCHIZOPOLIS is capable of anything.

To my surprise, the follow-up turns out to be better than the first go-round. Largely because Soderbergh and screenwriter George Nolfi dispense with the idea that they’re making a heist picture. There are robberies galore in the film, but they’re literally afterthoughts. We only hear about them after they’ve been pulled off.

Thus, OCEAN’S TWELVE is free to follow a higher calling, which is to celebrate the fabulous in all its forms. The attractiveness quotient of the cast is upped considerably with the addition of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vincent Cassel. Eddie Izzard and Robbie Coltrane pop in just to be cool. And Soderbergh is clearly enjoying himself, spotlighting gorgeous European locales using a battery of nouvelle vague camera tricks.

The movie’s a broad, showy lark, reminiscent of flamboyantly mod 1960s films like DIABOLIK and CASINO ROYALE. The only problem, of course, is that none of those flamboyantly mod 1960s films are really any good. They eventually collapse under the weight of all that whimsy. And OCEAN’S TWELVE is no exception. It’s fizzy for the first hour, then it goes flat. But it looks great.

This movie should hold me over until the announced sequel to Pierce Brosnan’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, which will borrow elements from the 1964 Oscar-winner TOPKAPI. Making it not only a sequel to a remake, but a remake in its own right.

Excuse me. I’ve got to go lie down.

Miscellaneous: Link

Variety’s Robert Koehler gives a complete rundown of every movie entered in this year’s Best Foreign Film derby. Check it out, because it may be the only publicity some of these films get.