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Stephen Soderberg’s Ocean’s Trilogy | Old Classics…Newly Reviewed

 

Gini’s bringing you a “threefer” this week, discussing the 2001 remake Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen.

In 2001, director Stephen Soderbergh and actors George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon – plus a cadre of other greats – chose to remake one of the worst wastes of celluloid, Ocean’s 11. And I’m so glad they did.

Of course, this calls for a True Confession:

My number one requirement in visual entertainment is good looking leading men. This movie has that in spades, for all ages.

I’m also a sucker for a heist movie, at least a good one. And these are all good ones.

♦♠

In Ocean’s Eleven, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gets released from prison and immediately contacts his old friends – Frank (Bernie Mack), Rusty (Brad Pitt), and Ruben (Elliott Gould) – with one plan in mind: rob three Las Vegas casinos, all owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the man who happens to be the new boyfriend of Danny’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). Danny and all his friends and associates are conmen – good ones, with a lot of experience, brains, and drive.

Danny and Rusty determine the various cons they’ll need to perpetrate and set about recruiting the rest of the people needed, ending up with eleven. Heist hijinks ensue.

Until I’d seen the original Ocean’s 11, I didn’t get that Ted Griffin (who wrote the screenplay) was poking fun at it. But there’s a scene where the eleven have all just gathered in Ruben’s house when Linus (Damon) makes a “smash and grab” comment, to which Rusty replies that “it’s a little more complicated than that” and the scene goes on. This is a direct jab at the original, and it made me love this version even more. Locations are mostly Vegas but all over the U.S. as well.

Ocean’s Eleven proved so popular – unlike the original – that it got three sequels, so far. (I’m counting the upcoming Ocean’s Eight.)

In Ocean’s Twelve, Benedict has been tipped off about who robbed him, and that they’re called Ocean’s Eleven – though not by the team and there’s some funny stuff about that – and he wants his money back with interest. The gang has to figure out how to get that money as well as determine who broke the cardinal rule of sharing names with marks – and who is also competing with them, without their knowledge. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Eddie Izzard, and Vincent Cassel join the cast and the locations are all over Europe.

Ocean’s Thirteen involves Ruben being betrayed by a man everyone but Ruben knew would betray him – shady mogul Willy Bank (Al Pacino) – and the rest of the gang getting revenge. I won’t share who becomes the thirteenth member of the squad, but it’s a worthwhile payoff. Ellen Barkin joins the cast and we’re back in Vegas again.

Ocean’s Twelve got some complaints about Julia Roberts roles in the film which I don’t agree with because I find that bit hilarious and well done (just in case, not giving spoilers), and some complained that it wasn’t as good as Eleven or Thirteen.

I don’t agree, and I think all three films work exceptionally well as a trilogy.

The character with the most growth through the series is Linus (Damon) and there are hilarious payoffs about him through all three movies. This is possibly why Linus is the only crossover character that’s said to be in the upcoming Ocean’s Eight – and I can’t wait to see what his (likely cameo) role is.

The complaint I’ve heard the most about any of the Ocean’s films is that they were just an excuse for a bunch of friends to hang out together and get paid to do it. And, that’s very likely true – 100% true for the Rat Pack film, for certain.

But that’s not bad if the audience gets to share in the fun. In the original, there’s no fun being had as part of the audience. That film was slow, boring, and badly acted, and the winking the actors did was at each other. But a huge part of the reason the remake and its sequels work is because the audience is absolutely included in the fun – it’s as if you, the audience member, are a silent partner with the team, not just getting to be on the outside looking in, and the cast is winking at you, including you in on the heist.

The Ocean’s scripts are all smart and funny, the heists are cool, complex, and interesting, and the characters grow and mature and do all sorts of good things you want characters to do. These are some of the best heist movies out there, and, if you like your heists fun, fast, and believable and/or great visuals, I cannot recommend them enough.

5 stars out of 5


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