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Film Review: Ocean's Twelve

Ocean Frenzy

Is there such a thing as a “lucky” number? 100? 3.542? 1,785,854?…How about simple 11? Well, it is said that Sammy Davis Jr. said 11 was a lucky number when he acted in the first production of “Ocean’s Eleven” in 19601, back in the days when the Rat Pack defined “cool”. The new ultra-modern sequel to that film is “Ocean’s Twelve”, recently released during the holiday season, and quickly following the 2001 release of “Ocean’s Eleven”.

So, what is all this fuss about Ocean and his numbers? Enter Danny Ocean (George Clooney), in “Ocean’s Twelve”, a charismatic prankster whose tricks operate on the level of clearing casinos of millions of dollars, which takes place in an atypical American suburban setting. He has just ended a long-running, seething conflict with his estranged wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), continuing directly from “Ocean’s Eleven”(2001), and is preparing for a quiet existence of “happily ever after” when life is rudely interrupted by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). This is when the history between these two rivals starts to matter: Terry Benedict (a Las Vegas casino owner) was previously involved in a tepid relationship with Tess and is still grieving the loss of over $150 million from a heist executed by Danny and his crew of 10 men, in what was Danny’s plan to win back Tess in the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven”(2001). Danny is now forced to return to mass theft with his crew of 10…plus 1, Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), in order to pacify the aggrieved, and supposedly deadly, Terry Benedict in what is now becoming a convoluted series of revenge attacks.

What follows is a plot that merely shows how Hollywood stars enjoy the good life – throughout the film, one feels as if one has been dropped into a some fancy reunion of sorts. This script did not match the seriousness evident in “Ocean’s Eleven”(2001): Terry Benedict’s fearsome aura has evaporated, the quips have lost their edge, and that tingling tension between the men and women has all but slackened, adding to a certain falseness in the film. To boot, the storyline kept going off into tangents.
In what is a translation of a translation, I ask how far has “Ocean’s Twelve” come from its 1960 predecessor? Here are the common themes that thread throughout the trio: plots involving high stakes and huge rewards where precision means everything, no violence (surprising considering the risks), man-woman relationships fraught with friction, solidarity and trust within the team, a constantly edgy chief financier of the heists, and a wardrobe filled with the finest threads of the day for the entire cast.

There are noticeable differences between the films, some are deliberate whilst others exist simply because the films were produced in different eras. The remake of “Ocean’s Eleven”(2001) is much more complex in its approach than the orginial “Ocean’s Eleven”(1960) on many levels: the plans are more calculating and the cast members have a certain gravity to their personalities. This leads to a lingering hint of “more than meets the eye” – be it in the silent but informing glances exchanged between Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his second in command, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Another complexity is the fact that the heist was really a cover-up for Danny Ocean(George Clooney) to win back Tess (Julia Roberts).

Although this trio of films is aimed to portray an image of theft-for-fun, the new “Ocean’s Twelve” stretched this theme a bit too far…maybe Sammy Davis Jr. was right; 11 is the lucky number!

1Based on commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. in DVD of “Ocean’s 11” (1960)

January 18, 2005
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