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OCEAN'S TWELVE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2005

"What are we stealing?"

Film ***1/2

If 2001's remake of Ocean's Eleven was the downright perfect recipe for extravagant movie entertainment, then Ocean's Twelve should be regarded as an outstanding second helping. The first movie brought together a monumental cast of superstars, enlisted a truly gifted director, and delivered what would become one of the all time great caper movies. It even nabbed the #2 spot on my top ten list that year.

Director Steven Soderbergh has reunited with the star-studded cast to end all star-studded casts and has made a follow up film that, while not exceeding the first film, still stands on its own as a vastly thrilling movie, with surprises of its own to spare. The stars themselves appear to be having a blast (the film shoot was reportedly compared to that of a summer vacation). And with the action taking place in gorgeous European settings, it adds up to the closest one can get to actually being there.

The story picks up three years after the now famous Bellagio heist in Vegas. Retired thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and wife Tess (Julia Roberts) are living under aliases in Connecticut and are settling down for a quiet little life of early retirement. That is, until Tess gets an unexpected visit from robbed casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who demands that the entire 160 million, along with interest, must be paid up in two weeks, or else face severe consequences.

Benedict tracks each of Ocean's men around the globe in one of the film's funniest sequences. Fighting brothers Virgil and Turk Malloy (Casey Affleck, Scott Caan) are interrupted at Virgil's wedding rehearsal dinner; Chinese grease-man Yen (Shaobo Qin) is caught in the middle of a domestic dispute in Miami; Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) is tracked down at his very own nail salon; demolitions expert Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) is found in a London recording studio (hilarious scene); pick-pocket auteur Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) is located in Chicago; aging con Saul (Carl Reiner) in New York; technical wizard Livingston (Edie Jemison) in New Orleans, and financer Reuben (Elliott Gould) in Las Vegas.

Lastly, there's Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), who's now the proprietor of an unsuccessful hotel operation. He gets a phone call from Benedict (a reversal on the key phone exchange in the first movie), along with his car blown to bits in a parking lot. No more needs to be said, as he gets the picture.

After a brief rendezvous, and realizing that they're too hot to work anywhere in the States, the gang agrees to flee to Amsterdam to begin pulling off some jobs. Even though they've obviously got a lot of money to make in not so much time, Ocean and his team don't hesitate to proceed with a first job involving the theft of an antique bond. Only thing is, when they access the home to steal it, they realize that someone has already beaten them to it.

It turns out that Ocean's gang has a bit of an enemy in the form of fellow thief Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), a wealthy European thief who goes under the alias of "The Night Fox". Toulour, it also turns out, is the very individual who ratted out the cover of Ocean and his eleven men to Benedict, resulting in their current predicament. It was all a means to lead Ocean into accepting a challenge proposed by Toulour.

The cause for all of this was Toulour becoming infuriated when his mentor, perhaps the world's greatest living thief, thought of him to be the best heistman, until hearing of Ocean's elaborate heist in Vegas. Toulour then assumed that the only way to determine who in fact is the best is to challenge Ocean to see who can steal a priceless item first. If Ocean wins, Toulour agrees to pay the entire debt to Benedict. The challenge is accepted, of course.

But Toulour isn't the only problem the gang has to worry about. Hot on their trail is police inspector Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose father was a thief, and believed to be dead, and has a personal history with Rusty. They were intimately involved before Rusty fled when realizing she was close to discovering he committed a theft that she was investigating.

The item in question that is up for grabs is a Faberge Egg that is to be housed in the Romanoff Dynasty. Ocean and his team have devised a plan to successfully steal the egg. But the plan goes very sour when, on the day of the attempted heist, eight of the men are intercepted by police and put in jail. It seems that someone blew their cover once more.

With Linus, Basher, and Turk left on their own, they come up with the rarest of heist maneuvers. It will involve the participation of Tess, who has been told to fly to Rome at Danny's request. I don't want to reveal much of what is done from this point forward, except that it's a most unexpected and hilarious gesture as Soderbergh breaks through the fourth wall with sheer delight.

The last half of Ocean's Twelve delivers some thrilling twists and turns at a frenetic pace. I don't want to spoil any details, partially because everything is so elaborate it would take me three or four paragraphs to explain everything. The last revealing segment is truly something of beauty, though it will require your attention to everything that has gone on prior to this moment.

Soderbergh, who shot the movie himself, has definitely upped the ante on the level of style and atmosphere. Film critic Richard Roeper noted, "the movie is like a glossy European fashion magazine come to life." I couldn't have said it better myself. The location shots are nothing short of magnificent, and can be considered a big star in the movie itself.

Ocean's Twelve is definitely one of the better sequels to come around in some time. It had a lot to measure up to, and to have the ability to provide its own bag of tricks instead of rehashing the same plot is something to be said. Kudos to Soderbergh and co. for delivering the goods once more.

Video ****

What an amazing presentation! WB's anamorphic transfer (Full Screen available separately) boasts consistently sharp imaging along with standout use of colors. The result is a remarkable piece of video as only DVD can bring. The European scenic value pays off strongly as, I mentioned before, it will add up to the closest thing to actually being in Amsterdam and Rome. The highest of marks all the way!

Audio ****

Terrific sound, as well. The 5.1 mix takes grand advantage of every technical aspect of Soderbergh's movie, from set pieces to the jazzy score by David Holmes. Dialogue delivery is sharp as a blade, too. The numerous heist scenes get the best treatment in terms of overall surround sound, especially a scene late in the movie involving laser beams. Wonderfully done!

Features *

This was a most unexpected letdown. The only feature is a trailer for the movie, as well as bonus previews for The Aviator, The Phantom of the Opera and Million Dollar Baby. I can only hope that a Special Edition is in the works.

Summary:

The gang is all back for another high charged romp! Ocean's Twelve is endless fun with plenty of atmosphere and star power to spare. As far as sequels go, it's clearly one of the better ones to come along in some time.

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