I purposely didn't watch Ocean's Eleven again before going to Ocean's Twelve. Sequels rarely work out, and I didn't want to spend the whole time comparing and contrasting. Now, I think I may have to go back and watch it after all, because director Steven Soderbergh has done something very interesting, at least I think he has. He's varied his approach for no other reason than to avoid being bored. Though a remake of what was essentially a glorified home movie by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack, Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven was a truly professional piece of work, a well-oiled machine. But Ocean's Twelve, though just as enjoyable, is a looser, messier movie, closer in spirit to Frank and Dino's version. Apparently, Soderbergh wasn't afraid of falling flat on his face.
And neither are Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his band of merry men, all of whom return for another round of breaking and entering when Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia, looking simply fabulous in his ascots), their victim last time, tracks them down and gives them two weeks to pay back the $160 million they stole from him, plus interest. That sends them to Europe, with stops in Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, among other places, and it has them setting their sights on a Fabergé egg that's surrounded by one of those cat's cradles of laser alarms. But the heist itself counts for little in Ocean's Twelve; it's pure McGuffin. What counts is the sheer élan with which these confidence men approach their impossible mission, and the sheer élan with which Soderbergh approaches his. Nobody breaks a sweat, which is the very essence of cool.
Packed into tight leather jackets, Catherine Zeta-Jones shows up as a Europol investigator who once shared a bed with Brad Pitt's Rusty; their scenes together have a nice snap. And Vincent Cassel, whose French accent might seem fake if he weren't in fact French, plays the "Night Fox," a rich playboy/baron who fancies himself the sleekest cat thief since Irma Vep. The plot, which has enough twists to put you in traction for a month, pits the Frenchman against the Americans for world bragging rights, but that's really just something to hang the movie on. All the pleasures are incidental, set within individual moments and scenes, as when Julia Roberts' Tess, now married to Clooney's Danny, has to take drastic measures to make sure there's an Ocean's Thirteen. And that's all I'll say about that.
Ocean's Twelve is, at best, a trifle, but it's done with such smooth nonchalance that you can't help but wish it well. And the actors seem to be having a great time tweaking their images. This is the movie that Frank and Dino would have made if they'd spent less time in the casino, letting the chips fall where they may.