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A.J.'s Rating: 4 Sparkly Stardust Stars
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Directed By:  Steven Soderbergh
Written By:  George Clayton Johnson / Jack Golden Russell (story - 1960)
                      Harry Brown / Charles Lederer (screenplay - 1960)
                      Ted Griffin (screenplay - 2001)
Starring:  George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts,
Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle
Rated:  PG-13 (Mild Language / Violence)
Running Time:  107 Min.
     Coolness... the first word that comes to my mind whenever the famous rat-pack is mentioned.  Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, the esteemed Mr. Sinatra and their friends were the very definition of coolness in the 50's and early 60's, and Las Vegas was their glittery desert playground.  The original Ocean's Eleven, released in 1960, starred virtually all of them.  More a historical record of the slick martini set than an actual movie, the original Ocean's Eleven highlighted the members of the rat-pack in all their stylish, politically incorrect glory.  The number eleven was most likely chosen just so no one would be left out!  The plot concerning a heist of Las Vegas' biggest casinos was secondary, and I suppose decent direction came third or fourth.  Pure entertainment, for themselves as well as for their audiences, always topped the list for anything the rat-pack did.
    In that spirit, director Steven Soderbergh has updated Ocean's Eleven for the new century, casting virtually all of his own favorite movie stars in the process.  In a daring move, Soderbergh has chosen to use some very interesting directing techniques.  Surprisingly, the plot unfolds from its beginning, through to the middle, and then to the end, without an abundance of flashback scenes!  What's more, Soderbergh utilizes incredibly conventional camera angles, well-framed establishing shots, and what appears to be entirely unembellished stock motion picture film to create his work.  I had no idea that anyone in Hollywood still made movies like this!  Okay, okay, I may be having a bit of fun here as far as directing is concerned, but fun is what this movie is all about.  Considering the undeniable star-power involved, Soderbergh allows his actors to carry the film, resisting the temptation of fancy directing and editing tricks.  With these stars, that's one gamble that was sure to pay off!
    As far as remaking Ocean's Eleven is concerned, the heist story is simplistic and similar to the original, but most everything else has been altered to suit today's less swinging audiences.  Gone are the martinis, constant chain smoking, and anything even remotely resembling a production number.  Instead, we are treated to performances by three generations of Hollywood's best and brightest stars, many great lines of dialogue, and one great big heist.  I'd say that's a fair trade!
    Make no mistake, the rat-pack mystique remains unscathed by time and this movie remake.  I can just imagine the Hollywood honchos pitching this idea as a vehicle for Harry Connick Jr. or Chris Isaak and, boy, just thinking how badly that would have turned out is enough to start the martinis flowing!  In fact, I applaud the makers of this second Ocean's Eleven for not attempting a scene-for-scene remake of the original movie, since all the two films really share is a title and very basic story outline.  The only other comparison that can be made is that Frank Sinatra didn't sing in the original, and, thank God, George Clooney doesn't sing in this one!  Rat-pack purists, rejoice!
    As for acting, all the stars shine in their respective roles, but what's this?  Could a supporting-actor nomination be in Elliott Gould's future?  Stranger things have happened!  Also, there is a wonderful ensemble feeling to the entire cast of characters, without the ego-tripping you might expect from such high profile talent.  (You may notice that Tom Cruise is not in this movie.  Hmm...)
    So, to sum up, this is a top notch, class-act affair all the way, and delivers a great deal of pure Hollywood entertainment.  In other words, Ocean's Eleven is one Heist flick that really knows The Score.  Coolness!
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Review published
December 13, 2001
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