Ocean's Eleven

Improving upon original motion pictures can be dubious, but not in the case of the original Ocean's Eleven, which was less a movie and more a chance for the infamous Rat Pack to hang out. In the capable hands of Steven Soderbergh, fresh off of Erin Brockovich and Traffic, it still isn't really a movie, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun. The new Ocean's Eleven is still light on substance, but full of witty dialogue and amusing sequences. It's a nice piece of fluff, enjoyable for the duration and then it slowly fades away, and easily the most enjoyable of the recent deluge of heist movies (including Bandits and Heist). George Clooney (Spy Kids, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) heads an incredible cast which includes Brad Pitt (Spy Game, The Mexican), Julia Roberts (America's Sweethearts, The Mexican), and Matt Damon (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, All the Pretty Horses), and even with all these big names, no one star hogs the spotlight.

As soon as Daniel Ocean (Clooney) was paroled, he immediately set off planning his next big heist; robbing the Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Mirage Hotels during a big fight. Harry Benedict (Andy Garcia, Lakeboat, Swing Vote) owns the three casinos, and also happens to be dating Tess (Roberts), Ocean's ex-wife. Ocean and cohort Dusty Ryan (Pitt) assemble together eleven men to plan and stage the robbery. The planning takes up much of the movie, and contains some of the most enjoyable parts. The script by Ted Griffin (Best Laid Plans, Ravenous), based on the original by George Clayton Jones, Jack Golden Russell, Harry Brown, and Charles Lederer, gives a small amount of time to each person in the crew, letting them have their fifteen minutes of fame before slowly fading back into the background. The Tess character is a much bigger factor later in the film, once Ocean's fellow criminals realize that part of the reason he is targeting Benedict is because of Tess. It's a shame, since Tess is such an interesting character, and it would be good to see more screen time of her.

The actors interact well with each other, thanks to Soderbergh's direction and the dry, sardonic script. The cast throws out many amusing one-liners at each other, and more work than don't. Clooney and Pitt play the scheming, quiet but thoughtful leaders. Damon is more of an unsure, newbie who wants to do more, but isn't allowed. Scott Caan (American Outlaws, Gone in Sixty Seconds) and Casey Affleck (American Pie 2, Hamlet) are amusing as dimwitted, battling brothers. The worst off is Don Cheadle (Rush Hour 2, Swordfish), whose role consists of a bad accent. Garcia plays the slimy, money hungry casino boss to perfection. Most of these characters do not have the most complex personalities, and Soderbergh's decision to give them all something to do doesn't really help with their development.

It's nice that in a world of cautious lawyers, the Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Mirage let their names and likenesses (especially the first) appear in the film. Of course this is only a movie, but the casino exteriors and interiors lend an aura of credibility and authenticity to the proceedings. Soderbergh is almost cruelly efficient in setting up the story and moving quickly from stage to stage of planning. All of his characters are slick professionals, and watching them intricately plan the robbery only makes it more fun to watch when they execute their plans. Everything in Ocean's Eleven happens for a reason, even if that reason is not clear until the end. Since this is a fairly straightforward movie, there are many times where the audience can guess the plot twist. Still, Griffin manages to surprise, as it seems that Ocean and Ryan have contingency plans and little surprises lurking around each corner. And one still needs to invest the brainpower to keep things straight, which is always a good thing.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content.

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