It seems that the Hollywood remake wagon just keeps on rolling. It seems that most remakes are just special-effect laden hashes of old classics. Ocean's Eleven is one of the exceptions, not only being character based but better than the original. The original starred some of the Rat Pack; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero and Henry Silva, and was directed in 1960 by Lewis Milestone. The 1960 version was remembered to be better than it actually was due to the terrific cast, but in all honesty was rather lacklustre (if you don't believe me, rent a copy and see for yourselves!!).
This newer slicker and all round more entertaining version stars some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Carl Reiner and Shaobo Qin. Also it is directed by one of the hottest directors around at the moment, Oscar committee favourite Steven Soderbergh, the man behind Traffic and Erin Brockovich.
The film starts with Danny Ocean's release from prison and immediately out-lines a job that he has been planning, to friend Dusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Ocean's daring plan involves robbing not just one, but three casinos simultaneously - all owned by Vegas magnate Terry Benedict, a very suave Andy Garcia. The take - $150 Million, the biggest heist ever in Las Vegas, but it has to be taken during a major boxing match (Lennox Lewis & Vladimir Klitschko, if anyone is interested). The two decide that they need a cadre of nine more guys to do the job and begin recruiting them. First, they need financial backing, which comes in the form of Reuben Tishkoff (an outstanding performance by Elliot Gould), who is more than eager to help as Benedict forced the closure of his casino.
Ocean and Dusty, having secured backing, set about finding the rest of the team - who arrive in the form of a misfit band, each with something to offer. The team includes a technical wizard (Eddie Jemison), a pickpocket (Matt Damon - new boy of the party), a munitions expert (Don Cheadle, with an awful cockney accent), the inside man (Bernie Mac as a table dealer), two mechanics (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan), a seasoned veteran (Carl Reiner), and a Chinese gymnast (Shaobo Qin - You gotta have a Chinese gymnast!). Thus the members of Ocean's Eleven.
As always, there are problems to solve and challenges to overcome. What do you do when you discover that the target is the impregnable Bellagio vault under the Las Vegas strip? Or that the weaknesses in the electronic security are discovered and protected, a few days before the job? Or how to removed $150 million in CASH from an underground vault? Or (most importantly) when you realise that Danny Ocean might have an ulterior motive for the heist as his ex-wife Tess is now dating Benedict. This factor is also causing a rift between Danny and Dusty, who sees it as a huge risk to them all. Does Danny want the money, his ex-wife, or both?
George Clooney has tapped into the old school acting gravitas with his own cool, smirky manner (I think he's trying to corner the market in gentlemen rogues - O' Brother Where Art Thou, Out Of Sight, Three Kings) and Brad Pitt is also extremely good as the rock-steady veteran. The remainder of the cast are no slouches either, each having a been given enough of the witty script to establish their characters, a rare trait in most action/heist movies. Stand out characters are played by Elliot Gould, who is hilarious as the neurotic backer and Carl Reiner is phenomenal as the old-timer in the gang. Bernie Mac also puts in some great monologues - his scene involving Matt Damon and Andy Garcia is very funny. Andy Garcia is very suave and looks the part of a rich, ruthless man who is always in control (Definitely wins the menacing droopy-eyed close up award). Only Julia Roberts is a little stilted as Tess, but that could be due to her role not being as large as the trailer suggests. The two bickering drivers, Casey Affleck and Scott Cann, are also over shadowed by the cast - one wonders if the two Wilson Brothers (Owen Wilson - Shanghai Noon, Behind Enemy Lines, Zoolander and Luke Wilson - The Royal Tenenbaums, Legally Blonde, Charlie's Angels) might have been a lot better as they were originally cast in the roles.
Steven Soderbergh has given another very slick, stylish and clever movie. The script is impeccable, it carries the whole film at a great pace and with its witty dialogue shows each character to be more than the two dimensional cardboard cut-outs that normally plague Hollywood. He has included a couple of clichéd crowd pleasers, but that doesn't detract from the movie at all. He also did the cinematography under the pseudonym of Peter Andrews, showing a more versatile side. The great writing is not lost on the cast at all. A good example is when Elliot Gould is trying to dissuade Dusty and Ocean by illustrating the three most famous near robberies in Las Vegas - all shot as very funny flashbacks while he narrates - slick writing at its best.
I have to admit I really didn't like Out Of Sight at all, and positively loathed The Limey, but with this film Soderbergh has redeemed himself somewhat.True, it is more of a popcorn movie than his previous affairs but it is pure enjoyment, plain and simple. Try not to think about it too much, it'll just lessen the enjoyment.
BACK TO THE REVIEWS