I’m confused. Is Tess (Julia Roberts) the new member of the gang - # 12, or is it Molly Star (Cherry Jones)? Is it the French crook, Francois (Vincent Cassel) or Matsui (Robbie Coltaine)? Is it the mysterious La Marque (Albert Finney)? Nah. It must be Bruce Willis who just played Bruce Willis.
On their second third anniversary, Tess and Danny Ocean (George Clooney) are living quietly in East Haven, CT (why?). Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the owner/manager of the Bellaggio Casino in Las Vegas that Danny and his original band robbed blind a few years back in the film Ocean’s Eleven, appears and tells Tess he wants all the money back, with interest. She signals Danny who goes to ground. One by one Terry makes contact with the other ten. He gives them two weeks to get him the money. The Eleven get together, another thief gets involved, and they eventually go after a priceless gold Faberge Easter Egg that belonged to the Romanoffs.
I did not really understand why the Ocean’s Eleven guys needed to pay the money back to Terry, unless it was honor among thieves of one kind or another. After all, the insurance took care of it and Terry didn’t really have anything on these guys. Nevertheless, the heist caper begins.
Ocean’s Twelve is a grin for Hollywood insiders: the stars wink and they nod back at each other. There are shades of director Soderbergh and George Clooney’s “K Street" which had a short run on HBO in 2003 (and which I rather liked.) Elliptical conversations, handheld camera, and celebrities playing themselves abounded then and now. Ocean’s Twelve, like Eleven, is a caper movie – nice guys who do something wrong and we enjoy watching them get away with it.
Heist movies exist in their own moral universe. Between bad guys and really bad guys, it’s a matter of which guys are more sympathetic than others (admittedly, there are some gals involved, too.) Heist movies can be fun because they are clever. I don’t know what they call the syndrome that attacks an audience of usually ordinary people and makes them empathize with these crooks, but it must be because of a lack of options. And then the movie stars seem to start at about 20 years old and go until 75 – so the audience can identify with at least one person. Heist movies make stealing and robbing look like fun. They do it because they can. You know, like climbing mountains.
There are differences among heist movies. Some are elegant (like The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968 or 1998 versions), some are very violent (The Italian Job, 2003) and some, like the Ocean’s franchise (will there be a 13?), don’t have any violence, bad language (there was a bleep scene in Ocean’s Twelve, but nothing explicit) and no sex, and some elegance – but are completely immoral. Such is the nature of the heist genre.
Ocean’s Twelve is a lark. It’s not the smartest movie I’ve ever seen, it is very self-conscious, but it was one way to spend $6.50 on a Sunday afternoon.