The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

My usual stance on remakes is pretty simple; if the original is good, why bother? If the original is awful with some sort of potential, okay, go ahead with it. Of course, there's exceptions to every rule. A minor classic in its own right based solely on entertainment value, 1960's Ocean's Eleven didn't need to be remade. If you're going to remake a quality movie, you better improve on it, and 2001's Ocean's Eleven is the rare remake that's better than the original.

After being released from prison following a four-year sentence, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has plans...huge plans. A thief and con man, Danny heads to Los Angeles where he signs on friend and fellow thief, Rusty (Brad Pitt), to join him. What's Danny's plan? He's going to do what no one has ever done; rob not one, not two, but three Las Vegas casinos and their impregnable vault on a fight night when over $160 million will be waiting if the job can be pulled off. The owner of the casinos? Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the cutthroat businessman now going out with Danny's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). To pull the job though, Danny's going to need help so he starts assembling a team of con men, thieves and specialists. Impossible for this group? Nah.

This is a fun movie. There, that's all I really need to say. Everything else is just fluff. This 2001 remake is the definition of what a fun, entertaining, popcorn movie should aspire to. It's smart but not condescendingly smart. It's funny but it doesn't try too hard. It's ridiculously unrealistic, but who cares?!? Look at that cast! Director Steven Soderbergh made one of the most polished, stylish caper movies ever, improving on the groundwork set up by the 1960s Sinatra version. Las Vegas is a crazy, over the top place and that translates well to the movies. A score/soundtrack from David Holmes is a funky, cool retro mix of music, as fun and energetic as the story itself. HERE is the main theme. I defy you to not bob your head, tap your foot as you hear it.

The script is great here, the thing that keeps it all moving. It sounds so simple, a well-written script in a dramatic but not heavy drama film. It is a smart script without being in your face smart. Putting the team together, Danny asks Rusty "You think we need one more?" Rusty's face is buried in his arms, and he says nothing. Danny answers "You think we need one more," a statement now. He finishes "We'll get one more." The script gives a very talented cast a chance to shine and interact, especially Clooney and Pitt, but there's not a single character who isn't given a chance to shine. What came first in a chicken or the egg scenario? Does a good script boost a cast, or does a great cast make a script better? Short answer....who cares? The movie's great either way.

An ensemble-cast worthy of a 1960s epic, I still wonder how a cast this big was assembled. Clooney, Pitt, Roberts and Garcia would be enough for most movies but not here. Danny's crew includes Frank (Bernie Mac), the inside man working in the casino, Reuben (Elliott Gould), the former Vegas casino owner and bankroll, Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Caan) Malloy, two brothers providing transport, Livingston (Eddie Jemison), the tech specialist, Basher (an uncredited Don Cheadle), the explosives expert, Saul (Carl Reiner), the aging con man, Yen (Shaobo Qin), the acrobat, and Linus (Matt Damon), a young pickpocket and thief on the rise. You couldn't ask for a better cast. The scene post-heist is a gem too, the team standing in front of the Bellagio fountains to Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune. Watch there <---- and listen HERE.

Fun and entertainment value aside, this is a heist film, and the casino vault heist doesn't disappoint. Now anyone who's been to a casino knows how ridiculous security is, but that's the fun of it. Could a job like this ever really work? No, but I'm sure Clooney, Pitt and Co. could pull it off nonetheless. A full 45-minutes, the heist goes down on a fight night, the 11 pulling a long list of cons and tricks to take down the vault. Things have been hinted at but nothing specific so seeing the twists and turns provide a great ride. Even on repeated viewings, the twists still work. How often can you say that? It's a great movie, one you can watch over and over again.

Ocean's Eleven <---trailer (2001): ****/****   

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