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A Remake That Isn't Offensive. Ocean's Eleven.

Aug 23, 2002
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Even the surprise that there are so many pros is a pro.

Cons:Very few. Only for the willing.

The Bottom Line: It is exactly what it is. Isn't that what we are all hoping for?



Before we get too far into the movie 'Ocean's Eleven' (or 11), George Clooney's character lays it flat out on the table to Matt Damon's character. 'You're either in or you're out,' he says, 'right now.' That pretty much sums up the movie's attempt at appealing to people. You know what it's about. You know what kind of movie it is. And, you're either in or you're out, and you probably better decide right now.

I happened recently upon d_fienberg's review of this movie (which I recommend as much as the movie itself) wherein he lists as the pro (something like) 'exactly the movie it is trying to be'. While this statement sums up my general attitude toward reviewing movies, it is also a decidedly true statement about 'Ocean's Eleven'.

When trying to decide how 'good' a movie is (as I've mentioned before), the two things I try to focus on most are: Did the movie turn out to be the movie it was trying to be?, and Is there any 'value' in trying to make that movie in the first place?

Whatever 'Ocean's Eleven' may be, it is (somewhat surprisingly) exactly the movie it was trying to be. Whether that is worthwhile or not is a different question, but one which I think has an equally positive answer.


Our story revolves around Danny Ocean (George Clooney). The movie opens with Ocean at his parole hearing, and subsequent release from prison. We then meet our other main focus, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), who is Ocean's right-hand man. Or, perhaps that's the other way around really.

Ocean isn't out of prison more than ten seconds (film time) before he is laying out the idea for his next job. His plan? Robbing the underground vault that holds the necessary 'cash on hand' for three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. Of course, there's more at stake than just the $150 million. These casinos happen to be owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), and Danny Ocean has personal reasons for wanting to stick it to him.

We follow along the fast-paced motions of assembling the team, and then watch them work out the details of the plan for this 'Mission Impossible' style robbery. In a 'slap bang' jump around style reminiscent of 'Reservoir Dogs', we meet our crew, work out some difficulties, and watch a gang of eleven apparent goofballs as they try to break into a vault with security that, as Ocean says, 'rivals most nuclear-missile silos' (some of these silos apparently not as secure as others).


This is the sort of movie that, apart from needing an appealing 'scheme', puts itself in the hands of its cast. I was more than a little surprised to see that this worked out in this case. What might easily have been a rather useless vehicle allowing a bunch of big names to feel good about themselves (remaking a Rat Pack movie is really cool), managed to avoid most of that.

Clooney is excellent in his role, managing to mold a character that fits the movie to almost the same degree as his character in 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' If this keeps up, I may have to stop disliking him so.

Brad Pitt is at least better than his average, and Andy Garcia does exactly what he's supposed to do, and well.

What really gives the film that extra nudge is the slew of supporting roles.

Matt Damon is really neither here nor there as 'The New Guy' or 'The Kid'. It's interesting to see him in such a small role, and he works, but he doesn't exactly stand out.

Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner lend a certain presence to the film that somehow adds a certain justification to things. Andy Garcia mentions during the DVD commentary that it was difficult to do a scene with Carl Reiner without laughing (watch the movie with a close eye during scenes they share and you'll notice that Garcia is giving it all he's got in order to keep a straight face... and he still fails a few times). For whatever reason, it is also actually a bit difficult to watch a scene with him in it without laughing.

Bernie Mac is 'The Inside Man', playing a blackjack dealer at the casinos. Again following the commentary on the DVD by Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, and Matt Damon, about all you can say is that Bernie Mac simply is Bernie Mac. If you are at all familiar with him, it will seem as though he wasn't even given lines, but was just let loose in the scene to do whatever he would do.

Don Cheadle ('The Family Man', 'Boogie Nights', but you might know him from 'Picket Fences'), gives a wonderfully odd performance as the demolitions expert who not only has a cockneyish accent, but also speaks in British underground/hipster doofus rhyming cant. Cheadle, by the way, though one of the 'Eleven', gives an uncredited performance.

We also have the 'Drivers', played by Scott Caan and Casey Affleck. Brothers (I guess) who add a certain youthful, loud-mouth, 'none of this is real' quality to things. They are both excellent as well, and the scenes in which they figure at all prominently are a treat. Don't ask me why, but I like Casey miles better than his allegedly 'tasty' brother. There is a reality to him just standing there that makes for a more three-dimensional character than his brother could pull off on his best day.




What we seem to have here is something along the lines of 'fluffy', 'just sit back and have a good time' fun. What sets it apart from the utter unwatchableness that is frequently found when traveling along those lines is that it is done really well, and it doesn't try to be anything else.

Director Soderbergh ('Full Frontal', 'Traffic', 'Erin Brockovich'), who is to me otherwise unimpressive, seems to have found a niche in which he shines. The scenes are very tight, with a conservation of film that is striking. There is a wonderful continuity of 'feel' throughout various changes of setting and mood, and the use of several 'dramatic' entrances and exits will leave you smirking at yourself.

Add to all this music by David Holmes that is probably as good as music for such a film could get.


And it all comes from a conglomeration that had so many opportunities to go wrong. I expect little from large groups of big names in movies. I generally expect even less from Soderbergh. And, no one could expect anything from producer Jerry Weintraub ('The Karate Kid', 'Vegas Vacation', 'Pure Country', 'The Avengers', 'Soldier').

Despite these obstacles, 'Ocean's Eleven' seems to have it all, or at least all it needs. It's a seriously fun slice of entertainment that gives back exactly as much as its viewers are willing to put in.


So...


Are you in or out?


Recommend this product? Yes

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