Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ocean's Eleven

In the past few years, Steven Soderbergh has been elevated from a commercially marginal director whose films barely received a release into a filmmaker with seemingly all of Hollywood's money and resources at his disposal. Since he reappeared on the industry's radar with 1998's Out Of Sight, Soderbergh's budgets and box-office returns have soared. While still making time for more modest films like 1999's The Limey, he's also maintained his integrity when delivering the goods in fare as crowd-pleasing, populist, and formulaic as last year's Erin Brockovich. The Hollywoodification of Soderbergh reaches its apex with Ocean's Eleven, a shamelessly commercial, superhunk-packed, briskly enjoyable caper comedy that's ostensibly a remake of the lumbering 1960 Rat Pack vehicle of the same name. The prospect of a middling Rat Pack showcase being remade with today's top pretty boys might initially seem as appealing as a re-imagining of Clambake starring Ricky Martin, but Eleven is more a rehash of Out Of Sight, with which it shares cast, crew, and a nearly identical tone, look, and sensibility. George Clooney essentially reprises his Sight role for Eleven, which casts him as yet another lovelorn, endlessly charming ex-con thief with a heart of gold, a prominent ex-wife, and an elaborate felonious enterprise perpetually on his mind. This time, the act of grand larceny involves conspiring with fellow slickster Brad Pitt to rob silky-smooth casino owner Andy Garcia in revenge for Garcia's theft of Clooney's long-suffering ex-wife (Julia Roberts). First, however, Clooney and Pitt must assemble the titular rainbow coalition of colorful crooks, introduced in a sequence disconcertingly similar to one in Armageddon. Like its protagonist, Ocean's Eleven is fun to watch, but slightly too hip, a little too knowing, and much too impressed by its own familiar brand of post-Tarantino cool. But like some of the other irascible crooks and cons Clooney has played (Out Of Sight's gentleman robber, the prison escapee of O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Ocean's Eleven boasts an oily, secondhand charm that's transparent but strangely endearing. With his Oscar-winning direction of the similarly star-studded Traffic, Soderbergh managed a remarkable balance between style and substance. In Ocean's Eleven, style delivers substance a Dream Team-style pounding, but the results are so breezily entertaining, it's futile to resist.


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