Are You In or Are You Out?
Release Date: December 07, 2001
Genre: Drama/Crime Drama/Caper Movie
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 116 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Executive Producer: John Hardy & Susan Ekins
Producer: Jerry Weintraub
Writer: Ted Griffin
Address Comments To:Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Warner Bros., Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
For those who remember such things, OCEAN’S ELEVEN is a remake of the 1960 Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin movie that made the Rat Pack famous. This time George Clooney heads up a group of 11 master criminals who plan to rob the safe holding the money for three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. Their caper requires MISSION IMPOSSIBLE like gadgetry and expertise, something that it’s hard to believe most of these guys would have.
In the beginning, Danny Ocean leaves prison on parole. He lies to the parole board and starts gathering the 10 other thieves and con artists who will make the elite team that will pull off the biggest caper of all time. Danny, however, has another motive for this caper rather than just $160 million. He wants to win back his ex-wife Tess, played by Julia Roberts, who has become the mistress of the owner of these three casinos.
Among the criminals enlisted to help Danny are his best friend Rusty (played by Brad Pitt), who is the detail man of the outfit; a young pickpocket named Linus (played by Matt Damon), who is trying to step out from his criminal father’s shadow; a retired con man played by comedy actor, writer and director Carl Reiner; a black Cockney munitions expert played by Don Cheadle; a professional card dealer played by comic actor Bernie Mack; an electronics expert; two getaway men; and, a Chinese acrobat, the perfect “grease” man, whatever that means. Working together, Danny’s elaborate scheme goes into motion. Several twists and surprises, as well as some comical situations, manage to keep viewers fairly entertained.
There’s some good acting talent in this movie. Carl Reiner is a delight to watch, because he has built a powerful back-story for his aging criminal character. Brad Pitt does a nice turn as the second fiddle to Danny Ocean. Pitt’s Rusty is a criminal talent who needs a greater ambition, which he derives from his leader, Danny. Bernie Mack is also a standout in the cast, especially in the two scenes where he plays a pivotal role in the scams the criminals need to carry out their plans. George Clooney is not as good as he was in O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, but he is better than his earlier roles. It would have been much better if he had been given more range in his character. His character is a little too smart, a little too slick. A quirk, a flaw would have made him more real. Elliott Gould is the weakest link. Rather than the street smart hero of MASH, he is now reduced to a man who can only utter profanities for a laugh. Julia Roberts is also a weak link, not so much because of her acting, but because her character requires more development to enliven her crucial role and lend more depth to the movie.
This is one of director Steven Soderbergh’s most coherent movies. He understands the premise and lets the characters tell the story of the plot. He doesn’t get sidetracked with dual storylines, like he has in the past. His control of this movie shows that he might have better movies in him. He clearly has a gift for shooting modern crime stories.
OCEAN’S ELEVEN also is clearly trying to reach a mass audience. What could have been lewd strip club scenes are now just caricatures of erotic behavior. The bad guy, played well by Andy Garcia, doesn’t even kiss his mistress. If it wasn’t for Elliott Gould’s profanities, this could be a minus one (-1) movie.
However, what is the message of the movie? That crime pays? These guys don’t appear to be Robin Hood and his merry band. They are not out to help the poor, or even the hundreds of elderly people squandering their retirement away at the gaming tables. The movie doesn’t make the case that this is good versus evil. Rather, these are petty thieves, extortionists and con men trying to bring down a bigger con man. Like SPY GAME, it comes down to who’s more clever, and that usually is not the most satisfying story.
Teenagers and young adults should love OCEAN’S ELEVEN, but may get the wrong message. Older adults may want to wait for a more meaty entertainment to come along. All in all, the original movie had a much more moral, more clever ending, but, if you’re just looking for some lightweight escapism, OCEAN’S ELEVEN may offer enough to keep you reasonably amused.
OCEAN’S ELEVEN is a popcorn pleasure, with some very negative moral elements. In the tradition of many modern Hollywood movies, it has a bunch of very winsome heroes with little to no moral virtues. As a popcorn movie, it is well-constructed and will keep people entertained. However, like popcorn, it may leave you wanting something more nutritious and the butter may turn rancid in your stomach. Although director Steven Soderbergh does an excellent job, the characters of the villainous casino owner, Danny Ocean and his ex-wife Tess are too superficial. Like SPY GAME, it comes down to who’s more clever. Usually, that is not the most satisfying story