The story conferences over this script must have been as entertaining as the caper film itself. The same hot crew of talent plus one are here for the sequel and they again take us in on their idea of fun and games. It may not be as fresh and original as "Ocean's Eleven," but there's enough vitality to go around.
In that first installment this highly successful gang of con artists pulled off a heist of $160M from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a casino boss whose level of danger increases with the shame of having his inpenetrable Las Vegas vault compromised. Having to face himself becoming the town's biggest loser is not exactly a shot of self esteem, bringing his least social tendencies. After seething about it for 3 years, during which time Danny Ocean's gang of eleven have been living high on their various versions of legal hog, Benedict gets some valuable information about their whereabouts. Every last one. The list cost him nothing except the agreement to give them two weeks to repay. And therein lies the sequel.
Besides the fact that his loss was covered by insurance, he's got his honor to restore. He wants all of it back, with interest. Or else. Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang don't have to guess what the "else" is. There's no playing games with this maestro of criminality and they consult Matsui (Robbie Coltrane) who puts them onto a caper of great enough proportions to repay the money but also to prove themselves the best in the world. All they have to do is steal the Faberge Coronation Egg, a priceless object that's about to be installed in Rome under the world-class, laser-beam security of an art museum.
But, it's not just Benedict that Ocean's team has to protect themselves from. Enemies lurk in the most unlikely places. There's sexy Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who, when we first meet up with this Europol agent, is sacked up with Ocean's sidekick, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). When she casually tells him her forensic team is about to uncover the identities of the Ocean gang, he excuses himself from the liason by jumping out a window, leaving her warm and cuddly and alone in bed.
She's not there long. Going to work, she addresses a gathering of international law-enforcement types on the subject of the best known thieves, referring to ultra-smoothy Francois Toulour, aka "Night Fox" (Vincent Cassel) whom she credits as the world's most elusive jewel thief. This babe's got style in the way she researches and goes after her wily and ingenious masterminds. She is also setting up the cute meet between Ocean and Toulour in which a bet and a payoff are key chips.
Meanwhile, Ocean's other half, Tess (Julia Roberts), has been holding down the homefront until she's called into action when things don't go spotlessly well in Italy. Playing her part in the scam, she assumes the role of a pregnant movie star (breaking the wall between reality and make believe while also "using" her actual pregnancy during the production and giving the movie a most unusual twist. This is also taking the actor's credo to "use it" to a new level).
The rest of the gang includes Matt Damon as pickpocket and Danny Ocean-wannabe Linus Caldwell, Elliott Gould as Reuben Tishkoff, Carl Reiner as Saul Bloom, Don Cheadle as explosives expert Basher Tarr, Bernie Mac as safecracker Frank Catton and others with less and less to do but who fill out the dozen with the occasional sideline color. The chemistry between Zeta-Jones and Pitt has a nice simmering quality while her appearances in the story line are highlights. The lady is in her element.
Director Steven Soderbergh's game with the gang is well paced but overlong and, some might think from George Nolfi's complex screenplay, over-detailed. Soderbergh takes credit for the camerawork, which is not always a good thing-- especially when it comes to hand-held freneticism. David Holmes' score using a variety of musical styles including jazz and rock might be a thirteenth character in the gang, setting the right tonalities to boost the action.
Not all gags work equally well but there's plenty of comic zip and last act twists to spin a fan's wheels even though you can't shake the feeling it's team roulette for a boxoffice repeat. You certainly can't (and shouldn't) take any of this light and sprightly entertainment more seriously than this rat pack redux does.
The Soundtrack Album