Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:05 - Released 12/10/04

When I saw Ocean’s Eleven, I commented that director Steven Soderbergh had assembled a cast that was almost too star-studded for the film at hand. But in a way it seemed to fit, since it took place in the ultra-star-studded city of Las Vegas. For his sequel, Soderbergh assembles all the original players plus more, and accomplishes less. For a film that includes such a worthy (and expensive) cast as George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner. . . Jeez, this seems like a lot of talent for such a so-so movie.

As viewers of 2001’s Eleven undoubtedly remember, that film was about an impossibly elaborate robbery of a Las Vegas casino—well, actually, three of them, which all shared the same vault—by veteran con man Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his longtime partner Rusty Ryan (Pitt), along with nine other guys they assembled to do various parts of the job. Although the film seemed a bit overstocked, it was fun to watch them work out their detailed plan, with each man scheduled to do his part in just the right way at the right moment, and then pull it off with just enough hitches to make it thrilling. In the sequel, however, penned by George Nolfi, we don’t even get to do that.

After successfully ripping off Terry Benedict (Garcia), the owner of Las Vegas’s Mirage, Bellagio, and MGM Grand casinos, not to mention recouping his ex-wife Tess (Roberts), who had been seeing Terry while Danny was in prison, Danny and his ten friends are living high on the proverbial hog in various parts of the globe. But Terry wants his $160 million back, with interest. He seeks out all ten of Danny’s friends and lets them know that if he doesn’t get his dough back in two weeks, they’re all going to be sleeping with the fishes, or spinning the big roulette wheel in the sky, or whatever they say in casino-mob lingo. So Ocean has to reassemble his eleven for another even bigger and more dangerous job, in Europe, to pay off Terry while making it all worth their respective efforts. But this time he has to contend with a couple of problematic new elements, like the intrepid and beautiful Interpol agent Isabel Lahiri (Zeta-Jones), who is apparently the foremost expert in the world at catching this type of crook (and who until recently was dating Pitt’s character, Rusty), and the “Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel), a mysterious French con man who intends to show Danny and his crew that they are only second best.

This movie starts off well, with a typical Soderbergh sequence reassembling the previous group from all their far-flung locations and putting them together for a planning session that promises another delightfully complex caper. But for reasons I won’t divulge, we never really get to see the plan properly put into action. Sure, there’s a lot of clever banter, some interesting character and relationship work, and a few nicely shot robbery scenes, but when it’s really time for everything to start clicking...it doesn’t. Julia Roberts is used a little more in this movie than in the previous one, but the whole premise of her part in the caper is kind of ridiculous. And the whole “dancing through the laser beams” sequence is so idiotic, I hated it just as much as I did when Zeta-Jones did it in Entrapment.

There’s no question that Soderbergh is a gifted director, and his vastly talented cast does the job they’re given with aplomb. But again they seem overqualified (even more so this time), because while Nolfi’s dialogue occasionally sparkles, they are essentially appearing in an action movie which is mostly talk and very little action. ***

Copyright 2004 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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