Review: Ocean’s Eleven

After the tired Mametisms of Heist and the dopey repartee of The Score, Ocean’s Eleven must count as a breath of fresh air.

Ocean’s Eleven
Photo: Warner Bros.

After the tired Mametisms of Heist and the dopey repartee of The Score, Ocean’s Eleven must count as a breath of fresh air. So suave it seems to operate on autopilot, Steven Soderbergh’s latest wisely tones down the action for its megastar crew: George Clooney’s parolee mastermind Danny Ocean, Brad Pitt’s pin-up card-shark Rusty, Matt Damon’s new kid on the block, Don Cheadle’s Brit explosives expert, and Carl Reiner’s stoic father figure Saul. The vault of Las Vegas’s Bellagio casino contains Ocean’s $160 million booty though the trophy de resistance is his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts), now shacking up with the casino’s owner, Terry Benedict (a wonderfully restrained Andy Garcia). Soderbergh directs his heist with workmanlike precision and gives equal cred to all supporting players involved. Ocean’s hip posse is collected for business; each member’s role in the operation becomes a delicate composite of a seemingly foolproof master plan. The robbery is typically predicated on all sorts of costume-changes and role-playing yet Soderbergh successfully underplays everything from the proverbial double-crossing to the inevitable return-to-love. The film’s jokes may be classy but they work best served ridiculous (a flashback sequence pays hysterical homage to a series of failed Vegas robberies). Chaos comes via a grandiose citywide blackout that initiates Harry’s downfall, stunningly staged as a virtual slow waltz. Soderbergh is so cool he can make anything go down like fine wine, even a perfunctory Rat Pack crime caper.

Score: 
 Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Holly Marie Combs, Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, Topher Grace  Director: Stephen Soderbergh  Screenwriter: Ted Griffin  Distributor: Warner Bros.  Running Time: 120 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 2001  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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