100 – Ocean's Eleven

Thank goodness for popcorn movies. Okay, so this one doesn’t completely qualify, as at certain moments during the film the brain is encouraged to wake up and breathe a little, but it’s still an exciting escapist movie. The plot centers around a massive heist – three major casinos in Las Vegas, all robbed simultaneously.

The ringleader is Danny Ocean (George Clooney), recently sprung from the big house. He has an ulterior motive for robbery (well, other than the $150 million); seems his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts), who left him while he was in stir, is now with the owner of the three casinos, Harry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a suave, cool, egomaniac. He looks like he’s been patterned after Steve Wynn, who owned (still does, probably) many casinos in the desert and who was always at odds with his eastern rival, Donald Trump.

So Danny’s out, and he has a plan. Plans are always good. He first recruits old pal Dusty (Brad Pitt), who’s busy teaching poker to nincompoop Hollywood actors. Dusty and Danny get together the rest of the gang, sprawled all over the country, including the Malloy brothers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck); Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), a novice whose dad worked with Danny; Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner!); demolitionist Roscoe Means (Don Cheadle, sporting one heck of a cockney accent); Yen the acrobat (Shaobo Qin); Frank the blackjack dealer (Bernie Mac); and their financial backer, Ruben Tischkoff (Elliott Gould!).

It’s a game cast, and it looked like they all had a lot of fun making the movie. I was surprised to see old hands Reiner and Gould in this one, especially since so many Gen-X people are involved. Reiner’s character is a lot like that of Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs, except that Sol’s not in charge of anything (and, in fact, has to be coaxed out of retirement). And Gould looked to have put on about 70 pounds – whether that’s padding or he put it on for the movie, I’ll never know.

The rest of the cast did a fine job. The best performances were by Pitt, Damon, and Clooney. But Julia Roberts – well, she had no chemistry with the man she was with (Garcia), none with the man she had been with before (Clooney), and none with the camera. In fact, she looked terrible in closeup, as if someone had strapped her down and injected her lips with about 10,000 cc’s of collagen. I know she has full lips, but sheesh! Plus they were supercoated with this Mary Kay lipstick that only served to enhance the gaudy image.

This takes the basic plot of the original 1960 movie (starring the Rat Pack, with Sinatra in the lead) and reworks it a little. It’s more stylish, more elegant, more thrilling than the original, and how often can one say that?

But of course the real story’s the caper. They have to bust into the vault, get this money – and it’s in CASH, mind you – and walk out. No one’s ever come close. This is a movie where you definitely have no problem rooting for the good guys. It’s part robbery thriller, part Robin Hood, part Mission:Impossible. It’s well-written, although it’s not as multilayered a film as some of Steven Soderbergh’s other movies, such as Traffic, Out of Sight (with Clooney), Erin Brockovich (with Roberts), or even sex, lies, and videotape. But it really is a blast.

Ocean’s Eleven: 7.5


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