Three years have passed since the last great casino heist and our eleven rotten scoundrels are (in majority) livin’ large. That is, as large as one can live while hiding from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and his hounds. The casino owner, however, is one man whose grudges collect interest – and he’s been keeping tabs on our loveable thieves. Three years later, Terry wants his money back. Or else. Our robbers and “specialists” shuffle off to Europe to find a score big enough to settle their debt and make Terry happy. He may not be a patient man, especially when it comes to a paycheck, but Terry agrees to give our group a very generous deadline of two whole weeks. Doable? Yyyes?
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his squad are screwed. As per usual, Danny plays the figurehead while Rusty (Brad Pitt) pulls all the strings. Rusty’s first move is to relocate the team to Amsterdam – mainly because of a certain lovely detective who happens to work there. Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is one of the main differences between Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Eleven. What can Ocean’s Twelve offer that the first installment lacked? A girl for Rusty. The detective adds another obstacle to Danny’s already dizzying to-do list: pay back Terry, steal something big, and do it without attracting the attention of the badges already watching.
Thankfully a score reveals itself, disguised as Europe’s greatest modern thief with a flair for French drama: François Toulour (Vincent Cassel) a.k.a… the Night Fox. This b-boy/ master thief challenges Danny and his crew to a robbery-duel, a steal-off, a take-race, a gentleman’s battle over a gentleman’s size. Toulour offers to make all of Danny’s problems go away should his team win the challenge. The only problem is that time is ticking with only four days left on Terry’s deadline. From a viewer’s point of view, this means the juicy heist we’ve been expecting from the start of Ocean’s Twelve doesn’t manifest until just past the movie’s halfway mark. Behold the second major difference from Ocean’s Eleven. We’ve swapped the thieves’ intricate planning and smooth execution for layers of character drama and police investigations.
So where did all the time go in the first half? The team brainstorms, talks to contacts, goes to nail salons, and sweats over Benedict’s approaching deadline. There are a few nuances here and there which add to the core plot, but they are so little and so randomly placed that you forget their potential importance almost instantly. But don’t worry, things stay interesting with random visits from Isabel and her generally distrusting nature.
Ocean’s Twelve keeps the character relationships that we loved in the first installment. Danny and Rusty have such fantastic chemistry I could watch them all day. I get the feeling that whenever a chuckle was needed, director Steven Soderbergh put Clooney and Pitt in a room, stuck the camera on a tripod, and let them add-lib away. Ironically (for men counting pennies towards a debt) the results are pure gold.
Since we’re not scanning all the angles captured by a casino security camera, Ocean’s Twelve’s cinematography takes a creative cut. It’s not quite as innovative as the first movie. That said, some perfectly framed static shots and the careful arrangement of foreground/ background shows the creative spirit still exists. Ocean’s Twelve is more about the characters than the job, and the steaks rather than the score. It drags a little in parts, particularly before we meet Monsieur Toulour in all his arrogant glory. While I could watch the fake-Julia-Roberts-meets-real-Bruce-Willis scene over and over again until the end of time, the movie as a whole is a little less re-watchable. Ocean’s Twelve is a 6.5/10.