Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ocean's Eleven

Now this is how you should remake a movie.  Taking the basic idea of an eleven-man Vegas heist from the 1960 Rat Pack original, Ocean’s Eleven discards most of the other story elements in favor of presenting an overwhelming sense of coolness.

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has a plan to do the impossible.  He wants to rob not one, not two, but three Las Vegas casinos at the same time; no one has ever successfully robbed a single casino, much less three.  Of course, it helps that he doesn’t like the owner of those three casinos, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), or that Terry is now dating Danny’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts).  Yes, Danny has the master plan, but he needs help.  A lot of help, all of it talented, and each person playing parts in multiple cons that will all factor together to achieve the big prize of stealing $160+ million from Terry Benedict’s ridiculously theft-proof vault.  Can Danny rob the vault and win back Tess?  Do you really care?  This is a heist movie, and it’s all about the con.
When you're risking arrest and jail time, a tuxedo is always the right choice.

The cast in this film is ridiculously large and recognizable.  Aside from George Clooney at his wittiest and most charming, you have Brad Pitt as Rusty, the number two man on the job.  Like Clooney, Pitt exudes coolness here, and their scenes together are the best in the movie.  Julia Roberts is okay as Tess, although I wish her character had anything appealing about her to make her worth Danny’s risk.  The rest of the cast is less famous, but still pretty good.  Andy Garcia does a very good job as the uptight villain, Don Cheadle plays a surprisingly good British criminal with a surprisingly Mary Poppins-ish accent, and Matt Damon turns in a quality performance as the relative rookie on the job.  The rest of the cast was pretty decent, although many of their roles were little more than one-dimensional.  Elliott Gould was nearly insufferable as the comically stereotypical showbiz Jewish guy, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan were solid comedy relief as bickering brothers, Carl Reiner was surprisingly serious, Bernie Mac got to make a joke about racism, Eddie Jemison played a nerd, and professional acrobat Qin Shaobo played the part of a “little Chinese guy” like he was born into the role.   
"Say hello to the human Nuprin: he's little, yellow, and different!"  Brad Pitt is racist.
There are also a handful of cameos, including Wayne Newton (it is in Vegas, after all) and a cast of young actors, playing idiotic versions of themselves (Topher Grace, Barry Watson, Joshua Jackson, Shane West, and Holly Marie Combs).

The film’s pace is quick, the dialogue is clever, and the editing is very impressive.  There are a lot of things going on in this movie, many of them at the same time, and none of them are explained beforehand.  Despite all that, the movie is never confusing.  This isn’t the best work Steven Soderbergh has done, but it is probably the most fun, entertaining, and polished of all his films.

What truly makes this movie great is just how much fun it is.  Everybody clearly had a blast working together, and that shows in their chemistry.  Sure, some of the credit can be given to screenwriter Ted Griffin, because there are a lot of gems in this script, but the timing is impeccable on all the jokes and even the ones that are winking at the camera  ---like anything Elliott Gould says, or when George Clooney and Brad Pitt leave a club with Topher Grace and some other young actors, and Clooney and Pitt are the only ones not mobbed by fans --- still work because the actors play up the jokes with the utmost confidence.
If these two can play brothers,how about James Caan and Ben Affleck?

I could go on and on about all the cool little cons they perform in this movie, but that takes away from the fun of watching them in action.  There are an awful lot of details that are often overlooked in this movie because of its pace, though.  I really liked that each character had their own identifiable style, for starters.  Some of the details in those looks would have held deeper importance in other films, but not this one.  In most movies, a character that has a tattoo that reaches out onto the back of his hand, like Rusty’s does, has a story for that tattoo, or it gives insight into his character.  Here, the tattoo is never fully revealed, or even referenced once.  Similarly, you would think that someone would have pointed out that Casey Affleck looks like a pedophile when he has a mustache, but that’s not the point of this film.  This is about style over substance, people.

And that is actually the only problem with Ocean’s Eleven.   It is so stylish and cool and fun that it never bothers to slow down and make the audience care about its characters.  Of course, the filmmakers never try to do this, so it’s not like they did it poorly.  Let’s face it, this is a ridiculous movie.  How much of this was planned in advance?  How many people are friends with Danny Ocean?  Whatever, it doesn’t matter. This is just meant to be fun fluff, and it succeeds at that.  There are other heist movies out there that I think are better movies, but it is hard to argue that there are any that are more fun to watch.
On a personal note, I would like to call out one of my favorite film moments.  When George Clooney meets up with Julia Roberts for the first time in Ocean's Eleven, he sits down and orders "A whiskey [holds his thumb and index finger about three inches apart] and a whiskey [holds his thumb and index finger about an inch apart]."  That makes me smile every time.  And yes, if you go to a decent bar and give them that exact order, they will know what you mean.  And that is awesomely cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment