Directed by Steven Soderbergh. US. 2004.

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There was a chance, but like a gambler twisting when he really should have been happy with a five-card trick, they went and blew it. I mean, it's like a fantasy Hollywood XI: Pitt, Clooney, Damon, Roberts, Affleck (not the annoying one) et al... but even bringing on Ms. Zeta Jones as a breathtakingly stylish second half sub, they muffed it up long before it got to penalties.

Why? Well, the crucial thing that went wrong was as old-fashioned as your proverbial slice of toast. Plot, plot, plot, people. The imperious prequel was a slick heist movie which introduced a ream of engaging characters and had an involving love-triangle romantic subplot. Here the romance switches most unconvincingly from Clooney and Roberts to Pitt and CZJ (he a thief, she cop - how very Romeo and Juliet, guys!), the heists are boring (a stock certificate?) and confusing (the egg? What happened there?) and inbetween is an awful lot of self-congraulatory, time-wasting piffle. Worst of all is the slide from 'Eleven' as a wonderful example of old-fashioned screen idol acting by the A-listers, to 'Twelve' as a woeful, awful slab of self-referential fluff. The "Doesn't Julia Roberts look like... Julia Roberts?" part is plain embarassing: leave the postmodernism to Kaufman, Jonze and Gondry. The "cool" reference to Miller's Crossing grates as well: leave the pop culture references to the Tarantino-era, i.e ten years ago. 

This is a MOVIE. It is not in REAL LIFE, where Julia Roberts and the Coen Bros. exist and ply their trade. And as for the awful little Hollywood in-jokes about Kabbala, Clooney getting older, as well as the clunky tranpsosition to Europe... no. Just plain don't work. Are flatter than a steamrollered crepe. Are crap, in fact.

The one major plus is that Pitt looks gorgeous (though not as good as in Legends of The Fall, obviously), and so does CZJ. Her clothes are amazing (John Leslie must be turning in his TV-wasteland grave), but her acting... hmmm. Stick to musicals, I think, and stunning Oscar red carpet appearances. Also, Don Cheadle is always good value for his comedy Cockerney twang, and David Holmes, Soderbergh's regular musical collaborator, does as brilliant job as ever of making us forget we are watching utter tosh.

But watching tosh we are. So in that case my advice to you is this: buy the soundtrack. And then rewatch Ocean's Eleven. For this sequel is not a film, I'm afraid, it is a hollow travelogue. 

Peter Anderson
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