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USA 2001
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
116 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Drew Arthurson
3 stars

Ocean's Eleven

Synopsis: Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) is a professional hustler and con-man just released from prison after serving time for various gigs gone bad. He dons the tuxedo he was arrested in years before, walks out the gates, and re-acquaints himself with old buddy and occasional partner-in-crime, Rusty (Brad Pitt). Ocean informs Rusty of his plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos all owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the man now involved with Daniel's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). They get the financial backing for the project from the Liberace-eqsue, Rueben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), assemble a crack team of surveillance experts, body contortionists, explosives men, pick-pockets and two-bit hoods (played by the likes of Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner and Scott Caan), and go to work.

Steven Soderbergh's newest feature is a slick, entertaining, throwaway heist film. Ocean's Eleven, the 1960s version directed by Lewis Milestone, was a hammy, rat-pack filled affair that pitted the guile of Frank Sinatra's Daniel Ocean and the smarts of his old WW2 buddies (Dean Martin et al), against the cronies of old skool Las Vegas. Mr. Soderbergh's remake captures the breezy essence of the original, and succeeds because the principal actors, for the most part, play it straight.

Clooney is perfect as Ocean, keeping the smirk barely in check and oozing the Teflon charm that befits the title role. He strolls right out of the pen and gets to work, obviously with a well-rehearsed plan he hatched while pacing the cell, aided by his shyster (though well dressed) sidekick Rusty, a character Brad Pitt plays with control but great flair. Likewise, Garcia is excellent as the ice-cool casino owner, Terry Benedict, and Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner chime in with enthusiasm and humour to boot.

On the downside, Roberts plays her role with hardly a trace of charm or sex-appeal. Don Cheadle, as explosives expert Basher Tarr, just isn't given much room to move, forced to dress like a recovery-party DJ and talk like a bad stand-in on The Bill. Damon, as Linus Caldwell, also battles throughout, though he nails the scene where he plays a poindexter Nevada gaming official.

On the whole, Ocean's Eleven is a well-executed, sharply scripted crime caper comedy. Soderbergh gives us a manages to deliver a suave, non-violent, and ultimately non-challenging genre piece, perhaps modelled on the mantra of the heist itself: "get in, get out, don't linger".

FYI: There were two sequels, Ocean's Twelve in 2004 and in 2007, Ocean's Thirteen, both directed by Soderbergh and featuring more-or-less the same cast but both also conforming to the familiar law of diminishing returns.

 

 

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