Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
[originally posted 12Dec2001]
Soderbergh, coming off two films that everyone but me seemed to like, returned to the big screen to helm a “remake” of Rat Pack wunderfilm Ocean’s Eleven. George Clooney was heard to say that the remake, in fact, had nothing in common with the original but the name, and he couldn’t have been more right. It takes a little stretching and a lot of devil’s advocate-playing, but if you look at Soderbergh’s creation as its own film and don’t try to compare it to the vastly superior original, you can have a good time for the hundred and fourteen minutes plus assorted commercials and previews you’ll be in the theater.
The plot bears a strikingly similar resemblance to the original—Danny Ocean pulls together eleven guys to rob a bunch of casinos in Las Vegas. The number of casinos has changed from five to three (thus allowing 1.8 more guys per casino. Jeez, what a ripoff!), and the band of merry men have gone from Ocean’s old wartime paratrooper unit to a loose collection of professional thieves. But then, security in 2001 is a whole lot more stringent than it was in 1960, so the original caper would have been impossible to pull off. Oh, well. Can’t win ’em all.
Once you’ve changed the premise, everything else goes its own way. Julia Roberts reprises Angie Dickinson’s original role as Danny Ocean’s wife, but Roberts has a much, much larger part in this film than Dickinson did in the original—in fact, she’s dating the guy (Andy Garcia) who owns the casinos that the guys plan to knock over.
There’s nothing here that’s too terribly surprising, and the twist at the end, while nicely delivered, doesn’t even have the punch of the ending of Heist, much less the last line of the original film, which is a twist ending right up there with that of The Usual Suspects. Still, despite pedestrian script and Soderbergh’s usual “just act as if I’m not here—no, really” directing style, a high-power cast makes it an enjoyable two hours. Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, and a really-not-aging-well-at-all Carl Reiner head the band of thieves, and the less-known members of the band of merry men (including Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and the seemingly-ubiquitous Bernie Mac) prove, within the boundaries of the script, that they do have what it takes to stand in the glare of all this A-list talent and still be seen. The real treasure though, as he is in any movie in which he makes an appearance, is Andy Garcia. Despite looking rather like a Baldwin Brother, fear not; Garcia’s got all the talent the collective Baldwins think they have, and it oozes from him every time he makes one of his big screen appearances. He gets a whole lot less screen time than Clooney, Pitt, and Damon, but that makes the time he does spend up there that much more enjoyable.
Catch the matinee and you won’t feel too ripped off. ** ½