Oceans 11 review by Tom Blain

CAUTION: SPOILER
What a Heist

As I stated in my review of State and Main , 2000 was the year of the writer movie. Almost Famous, State and Main, and Wonder Boys (just off the top of my head) were all films in that year about writers. Three movies, three types of writers (Almost Famous - magazine/critic, State and Main - film/play, Wonder Boys - novel/fiction). In my opinion (humble or not) 2001 was the heist year. David Mammet put in his two cents with Heist. Edward Norton, Robert Deniro and Marlon Brando teamed up for The Score . Even that Kevin Costner piece of crap 3000 Miles to Graceland involved a casino heist. Steven Soderburgh also threw his hat into the heist genre ring with a little movie called Oceans 11.

Oceans 11 is a 'remake' the 1960 'classic'. I put remake in quotes because the movies are quite different and I put classic in quotes because the original was drek. George Clooney had they easy job of replacing Frank Sinatra as Daniel Ocean, the brains behind the scene. Frank Sinatra was in one good movie (Manchurian Candidate) that I have seen and he is the reason I find it hard to watch that movie again. He was never a good actor and I am not sure he was even that good of a singer. That being said, George Clooney did a great job taking over his gig. So back to the movie... I got sidetracked

Daniel Ocean, con man and theif, gets out of jail and the first thing he wants to do is set up a team for a 'job.' We all know what 'job' means in the heist world. He starts with Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and they assemble a team of 11 specialists and con-men suited for a job bigger than Fort Knox: knocking down a vault to three Vegas casinos. Within Hollywood ranks alone, he brings a cast of specialists: Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck (who is much funnier and more talented than big brother Ben-ben), Bernie Mac (I feel I just did Fox a favor), etc. etc. They talk in witty, Mammet like talk, they plan their schemes, they annoy each other, and then they prepare for the big day when they unveil the job to the audience.

In most heist films (Reservoir Dogs is the exception) watching the heist itself unfold is the big payoff. Watching it switchback, double-over, reverse, tie a knot, is a pure joy and the heist in this film (although convuluated and outrageous) is quite entertaining. There are moments when you guess and it comes out right and then there are moments where you are left waiting for the solution. In the end, the crooks get away with the money and the con is played out successfully like we all hope it is. There is a solid resolution in the end, however, when we see that two heavies from the casino have caught up with Ocean and Ryan as the credits bring the film to a close. The assumption is that when you are a crook and over extend yourself like they did, you can only run for so long, and this is somewhat of a refreshing ending. If they would have gotten away scott-free I probably would have felt a tad cheated.

Soderburgh plays his game of packing his film full of big actors and it plays to perfection in this film. They all seem to have fun with their characters and play off of each other rather charmingly. Certain characters like Clooney's and Pitt's play the roles of the 50s-60s ratpack cool cats, while others like Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are hilarious as the brothers who are constantly at each other's throat to the point of fighting. Even Carl Reiner who I havent seen in a while was a pleasent suprise in this film. Julia Roberts (who played Tess Ocean, Daniels ex-wife) on the other hand seemed sort of subdued, perhaps because she was in a role where she was controlled by another man and didnt have much range of movement. It seemed all of her actions were dependant on Andy Garcia (who played Terry Benedict, the casino owner).

This movie was highly entertaining if you dig the genre. If you are looking for something from Steven Soderburgh that breaks the mold, this is not your film. He pretty much has fun creating a character filled film under Hollywood constraints. Its not Sex, Lies and Videotapes, and its not Traffic. Its not insanely complicated but its a fun little puzzle of a movie to watch and definitly worth the rent.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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