Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ocean's Eleven

Year: 1960 (Original), 2001 (Remake), 2004 (Twelve), 2007 (Thirteen)
Running time: 127 minutes (Original), 116 minutes (Remake), 125 minutes (Twelve), 122 minutes (Thirteen)
Certificate: PG (Original, Thirteen), 12 (Remake, Twelve)
Language: English
Screenplay: Harry Brown, Charles Lederer (Original, Remake), Ted Griffin (Remake), George Nolfi (Twelve), Brian Koppelman, David Levian (Thirteen)
Director: Lewis Milestone (Original), Steven Soderbergh (Remake, Twelve, Thirteen)
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scot Caan, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vincent Cassel, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin

Danny and co. begin to suspect something has gone very, very wrong.
The original Ocean’s Eleven isn't counted among the best movies to come out of Hollywood. As far as I know it's not even counted among the best of the Rat Pack. Without the remake I doubt many would remember it, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have heard of it. As a showcase for the effortless cool of the Rat Pack, it mostly works, with Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) bringing together some wartime buddies to rob five Las Vegas casinos in one night. It's enjoyable enough with the gang cracking wise and having a jolly good time in their escapades. It is, unfortunately, really rather forgettable. It turned out that Frankie & co. tried just a little too hard to be effortless.

Steven Soderbergh's remake, on the other hand, employed the coolest cast Hollywood had to offer, having the role of Danny Ocean taken over by George Clooney and bringing along a pile of talent to make up his Eleven. Honestly, Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. had style to spare, but Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould...and more. It's got to be one of the most stellar casts that's ever been assembled for a single film. Soderbergh makes the most complex of camera tricks seem as simple as breathing – just watching it while paying attention to camera placement is a revelation. Frankly, it did everything the original Rat Pack vehicle was supposed to do.

Taking a moment to enjoy their success.
So, we have a rare thing here; a remake that is easily better than the original film it's remaking. The only possible exceptions are Don Cheadle’s worse-than-Dick-van-Dyke’s accent as explosives expert Basher Tarr (although it's so bad, it has a weird kind of charm all its own) and the ending – the Rat Pack don’t get away with it in a great finale (their faces as their loot is being cremated is splendid), but George’s bunch get away free as birds minus a minor jail sentence. Even there though, while the original is funny, the remake's ending is more satisfying. One thing both films fall down on is that women are horribly underserved - Angie Dickinson and Julia Roberts both do what they can in the role of Danny's wife, and while Roberts does have a little more to do, both are almost the only female characters and both are side-lined. Not entirely unexpected for a film released in 1960 perhaps, but in the intervening 41 years you'd think that could have been something they'd have fixed. The sequels barely improve matters, adding little more than Catherine Zeta-Jones. Luckily Ocean's Eight, coming soon, looks set to restore balance.

Still cool, no matter how poor the sequel.
And then we have the curse of all successful Hollywood movies – the unnecessary sequel. Ocean’s Twelve is disappointing and, like the original, it tries too hard to look like it’s not trying at all. The plot is far more complicated, and frankly, I don’t want to be confused, I want to be entertained. Stylistically, it hits all the right beats - the dialogue is generally sharp and funny, and Soderbergh's cinematic flair is undimmed. The big difference is, in the original (that is the remake of the original), as a viewer I always felt like I was on Danny Ocean’s side, almost like I was one of the Eleven. Not so in the follow-up. I'm left in the dark as to what is actually happening until near the end; I feel like I've been kept out of the loop, like I was betrayed; hell, like I was one of the bad guys, and it’s rude to exclude me from the club. It was obviously a lot of fun to make, but nowhere near as much fun to watch. And Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) impersonating Julia Roberts because – here’s the funny part – she looks just like the real Julia Roberts? Does not work. Not even a little bit. I'm not sure I've ever groaned as loudly in a place in a film where I was supposed to laugh.

Danny sizes up his latest mark.
But then, something miraculous. Well, sort of. Ocean's Thirteen remembers why the original (remake) was so good and Ocean's Twelve sucked, and does something about it. In Ocean’s Thirteen, I'm once again part of the gang, back in on the play, and it’s so cool it’s plainly not trying in the slightest. Al Pacino is a welcome addition as Willy Bank, causing Danny's friend Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) so much grief he suffers from a heart attack. Even on just above auto-pilot, Pacino is so effective at portraying menace, it lifts the whole film. Danny reassembles the crew to go after Bank, not for the money this time, but payback for the way he's treated his friend. A very welcome return to form.

So, as Basher might say, after the sequel they were in Barney, but they remembered how to be cool for the finale.

Ocean’s Eleven (Original): 6/10
Ocean’s Eleven (Remake): 8/10
Ocean’s Twelve: 5/10
Ocean’s Thirteen: 7/10

Back in 1960, Bosley of the New York Times disliked the lack of morality in Sinatra's original, while Emma at Empire loved the remake. Matt at IndieWire makes a very good case for reappraising Ocean's Twelve and Vince at Qwipster also enjoyed Thirteen.

No comments:

Post a Comment