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Ocean's 11

Not better than the real thing

From the moment the jazzy lounge soundtrack wafts over to you off the screen, the movie Ocean's 11 reeks of slickness. From the tailored Giorgio Armani suits to the flippant verbal sparring, the film — which is a re-make of the 1960 classic of the same name — tries too hard to be something that it's not — cool. It earnestly tries to impress on you that it is indeed suave and charming, with all the grace of a loner middle school kid trying to get in with the popular crowd.

George Clooney plays Danny Ocean, and ex-con recently released from prison who's been scarred for life by his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). He hatches an insane scheme that involves simultaneously robbing three major Las Vegas casinos, The Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand, whose smug owner — Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) — he despises. Such a plot requires a highly-specialized team, of course, and Ocean scours the 48 States gathering his 11 partners in crime; thus, the title of the movie. His second-in-command is a pro named Dusty Ryan (Brad Pitt, playing a cross between his Fight Club and Snatch characters), who's mysteriously fluent in Chinese and is constantly eating, and together they assemble their group of misfits who include: the slow-witted novice Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon); an explosives expert, Roscoe Means (Don Cheadle, who seems to have developed his character out of the Caribbean misfits in Snatch); and Yen "The Grease Man" (Shaobo Qin), a 95-pound Chinese acrobat.

The heist is an elaborately planned, virtually impossible task that the (prolific) Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin seem to think the audience will believe took only a couple of weeks to organize. This is merely one of the many points that make no sense in Ocean's 11. Another hard to swallow fact was the relationship between Danny and Tess; there was no chemistry between the actors and they seemed more like chummy pals than two conflicted lovers with a long, sordid history. The original starred the 'Rat Pack' and featured such greats as Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson and Frankie "Ol' Blue Eyes" Sinatra. It's hard to beat that kind of chemistry.

At least the movie and the actors know how to laugh at themselves. There were a string of funny, tongue-in-cheek jokes that made the implausible parts of the movie more bearable. There were two scenes, in particular, that stood out for their freshness and improvised quality: one in which Danny pumps out a trite speech full of bravado and then Dusty exposes it for what it really is — rehearsed and fake, and then a scene where Linus and Danny try to ignite some explosives and then realize that their detonator's batteries are defunct. Elliott Gould practically steals the show as Reuben Tishkoff, a flamboyant former hotel-owner who has a personal grudge against Mr. Benedict, and Cheadle, as always, brings a rare charisma to the screen.

One of the last scenes brings a beautiful, sedate moment that's actually, unlike the rest of the movie, realistic and accessible. The eleven men stand in a row quietly watching the dancing water fountain at The Bellagio reflecting on the ensuing events. Soderbergh is at his best when he calms down and looks at people like they're human beings instead of superheroes who've walked off the pages of GQ; the rest of the movie should have been like this shot, it would have enriched the story much more and brought a sense of poignancy which was sorely missing from the rest of the piece. Furthermore, the most believable part of the whole film occurs at the very end, and it redeems the storyline somewhat. But for that — you have to watch the whole thing.


Ocean's 11
Rated PG-13
1 hour 50 minutes

George Clooney
Brad Pitt
Matt Damon
Don Cheadle
Julia Roberts