FILM REVIEW HHH1/2
Style, Not SubstanceBy Amy Meadows
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
1960 Story by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell
1960 Screenplay by Harry Brown and Charles Lederer
Screenplay by Ted Griffin III
Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts.
Emerging from jail in his tuxedo, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man on a mission. Like the Blues Brothers, Ocean is “getting the band back together.” A few hours after his release, he is in an Atlantic City casino recruiting his old friend Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), a man with a history so bad that he had to change his name to Ramon to get a job in a casino.
Ocean’s next stop is his old friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Rusty has been out of the con-man business since Ocean’s lock-up four years earlier. Now, he teaches poker to obnoxious and dim-witted teenage idols. Dawson’s Creek Joshua Jackson has a great bit part here as himself. Throwing down $500 in a game of poker, he comments, “It’s only pocket change, right?”
After he assembles the rest of his expert crew of eleven members plus financial backer Ruben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), Ocean sets off to do the impossible: rob three Las Vegas casinos. To make things more complicated, the three casinos -- The Mirage, MGM Grand, and The Bellagio -- are all owned by the ruthless Harry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who happens to be dating Ocean’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts).
Ocean and Rusty are always impeccably dressed. The rest of the characters, also have their own calm, cool demeanor and style. The point here is that Ocean’s 11 challenges the standard conceptions of good guys and bad guys.
The colors of the scenes are breathlessly striking. The fountains outside of The Bellagio play a central role in the views of Las Vegas. The night sky is a deep purple and blue, while the inside of the casino is a glitzy gold. Because the movie showed only a few casinos and never the entire strip, the movie seemed like a commercial for The Bellagio. The original Ocean’s 11 has as much to do with the mystique of Las Vegas as the heist itself. After all, the reason the Rat Pack--Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.--made the original was so they could hang out in Las Vegas.
The new version of the film barely resembles the older version. It is more of a fairy tale, while the original had a gritty reality to it. However, this version has its witty, funny moments and is eminently entertaining because you are rooting for the bad guys.
Despite the star-spangled cast, Soderbergh’s remake still lacks gusto. Just as Rusty explains to Linus (Matt Damon) that when he cons someone, he has to fade out of memory once he leaves, Ocean’s 11 quickly fades out of memory. Because it has no drama and weak characters, the film has little to distinguish itself from the hundreds of other movies.
Ocean’s 11 is a sleek and stylishly packaged movie, ready for mass consumption. However, it lacks substance behind the style.