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Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Heist Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: December 7th, 2001 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Soderbergh Actors: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Eddie Jemison

“O

cean’s Eleven” is a big-budget, stylish heist film with an A-list cast, well-suited to match. But what it doesn’t have is the smoothest dialogue or the most unexpected twists. The plot might keep viewers guessing for a time, but it regularly sacrifices reality and reason for a few clever sight gags; unlikely conveniences reign supreme over all the finer points of wheeling, dealing, and stealing. Plus, Julia Roberts just doesn’t seem worth going to jail over.

Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) was a successful, master thief – before he got caught. Doubtlessly involved in dozens of high-stakes robberies (though convicted of few), he’s eventually released from prison for good behavior – and the misguided notion that he won’t commit any further crimes. But mere minutes after his first few breaths of freedom, he begins contacting old friends to plan an intricate revenge stunt against the ultimate nemesis.

The plan is to simultaneously knock off three Las Vegas casinos – the MGM Grand, the Mirage, and the Bellagio – all owned by expressionless mobster Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Unbeknownst to his accomplices, Ocean also seeks a reuniting with his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts), who has fallen for Terry. The scheme is astonishingly complex, demanding the most precise and experienced men in the heist business, including Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), the inside man who infiltrates a casino as a dealer; Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), a professional con man who knows how to orchestrate a swindle; Virgil and Turk Malloy (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan), twin brothers who excel at bickering; Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), the computer expert who provides electronic eyes and ears throughout the operation; Yen (Shaobo Qin), an agile contortionist tasked with overcoming motion sensor technology; Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), the man who must impersonate wealthy gangster royalty; Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), the seasoned thief who can lift any item from any person; and Basher (Don Cheadle), the slang-spewing explosives specialist.

“They’ll be watching you like hawks. Hawks with video cameras.” As outlandish as the infiltration concepts are, they make moderate sense in the context of the film. Only after the predictably successful rip-off is completed will audiences start to question the ridiculous coincidences and technological improbabilities of the convoluted caper. In illogical theory, everything works out according to design – but in several key instances, the convenient locations and instruments are too readily available. While most of these don’t affect the overall entertainment value, a few are highly questionable, such as the electromagnetic device used to wipe out the power to the whole of Las Vegas for 30 seconds. Wouldn’t a machine that powerful be just as heavily guarded as the $160 million Terry Benedict keeps locked behind an impenetrable vault? And it sure does help to have easily acquired blueprints to all three casinos. But perhaps more than anything else, it’s the stupefying amount of money that Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), an investor who despises Benedict, fronts to allow for so much expensive planning, exhaustive reconnaissance, and a fully functioning duplicate safe to be constructed for practice (like something out of “Rififi”) that appears contrived.

A jazzy theme song coerces the tone of the film, while comedy continually surfaces, keeping “Ocean’s Eleven” a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing thriller that, in rare form, provides more amusement than the original Rat Pack film from 1960, from which this is adapted. Regular flashbacks to important events help to make the audience either feel a little stupider or to remind them of elements they could have overlooked, but most of the blink-and-miss grand larceny gimmicks are just for fun; danger and death aren’t really a part of this world. An outstanding ensemble cast of familiar faces and wry, overconfident personalities ensured that “Ocean’s Eleven” would spawn additional theatrical sequels – and gross more money than the crew conspired to steal.

– Mike Massie

 



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