Ocean's Eleven

on December 07, 2001 by Annlee Ellingson
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   The members of this caper's all-star cast have repeatedly insisted in their pre-release publicity that "Ocean's Eleven" is a throwback to when films were fun. A "movie movie," as helmer Steven Soderbergh has said. A popcorn pic. It's as if they're saying, "Have a good time watching this film, but don't expect too much from it." The warning is for good reason.

   "Ocean's Eleven" stars George Clooney as Danny Ocean, a convicted thief who, upon his release from prison, immediately begins to plan the biggest heist in the history of Las Vegas. To pull it off, he assembles a crew of 11 that includes a card sharp (Brad Pitt), a pickpocket (Matt Damon) and a demolition expert (Don Cheadle). But his partners in crime begin to doubt his motives when they figure out that the casino magnate (Andy Garcia) he is targeting is courting his ex (Julia Roberts).

   "Ocean's Eleven," a remake of the 1960 classic starring the Rat Pack, is a fun heist movie. Although the audience is somewhat aware of the crew's preparations, it is not clear until the end how all the pieces fit together, and the ultimate twist as to how they get away is revealed at just the right moment.

   Soderbergh's signature style is present, if muted. The film opens with Danny's parole trial, the frame centered on him as he converses with his interviewers who remain off-screen. The camera sits statically on the floor of a golden-lit casino, capturing Danny as he enters the picture from below via an escalator. Split screens, wipes and slow motion--also prevalent in Soderbergh's other recent crime movies "The Limey" and "Out of Sight"--recall an earlier, edgier period of filmmaking.

   And there are many clever exchanges, particularly between Clooney and Pitt, the latter of whom exposes what should have been a turning-point speech as a rehearsed spiel, and the former of whom holds an effective one-sided conversation with the other.

   But there's nothing here to be blown away about. Garcia, somewhat of a has-been compared to his hot castmates, gives the most effective performance as a hardened, ruthless businessman. Clooney is likable, as usual, as is Pitt, though one doesn't learn much about his character--there isn't much to learn. But Roberts, especially, fails to exploit her particular talents: Her character is angry at her ex throughout the film and so not once does she convincingly flash her singular smile.

   One can't begrudge these Hollywood A-listers for wanting to work together. Nor can one blame them for just having a good time. But given their respective pedigrees, we've come to expect more. Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Written by Ted Griffin. Produced by Jerry Weintraub, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some language and sexuality. Running time: 112 min

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