Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * ½

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When Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a wealthy and vicious casino owner, discovers the whereabouts of the eleven men who had previously robbed him of close to twenty million dollars, he demands that they return his money, with interest. Since these persons, led by Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his old friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), have already spent much of their loot, however, they decide to pull off a new heist in Amsterdam to get the cash they now urgently require. Their subsequent adventures in Europe soon make them aware that there is more to their current predicament than they had realized, as they learn that a shadowy master thief is manipulating events in order to force them to compete with him.

Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve is never as exciting or as well crafted as is its predecessor, Ocean's Eleven, but it is such a slick, fast paced film that it is likely to keep the viewer's interest through much of its duration.

While the movie is burdened with a number of faults, it is also punctuated by several genuinely thrilling sequences. The protagonists' risky burglaries, their complicated machinations, and their various troubles, most of which are stylishly filmed and several of which are enlivened by a vibrant soundtrack, are so skilfully made technically and so visually appealing that they are often wonderfully enthralling. Having conjured up a sense of modish fun with these devices, the director is able to draw viewer into the dangerous and exhilarating world he has created.

Sadly, the theft with which the film concludes is not as well presented as are several of those that came before it. In fact, this final adventure is somewhat clumsily handled and incorporates a number of elements that are frankly likely to annoy the viewer. Although these could have been handled in a clever way that could have made them genuinely funny, they are not. The viewer is, as a result, left somewhat disappointed by the movie's end.

Perhaps the film's greatest fault, however, is its story. While the director was clearly trying to craft an intricate narrative teeming with surprises, twists, and hidden motives, much of what he has actually brought to the screen is disconnected or even incomprehensible. Admittedly, when the viewer has seen the whole of the movie, several of its unresolved problems will make sense, but there is still an arbitrariness to the way many of the events depicted unfold. For example, after being presented with some impossible situation, the characters will occasionally be shown having overcome the difficulties they were facing without Soderbergh's having revealed to the viewer how they did so. Consequently, rather than being awed by the cleverness of the film's narrative details, the moviegoer is, instead, left feeling as though the director has just been lazy in his storytelling.

Despite such severe limitation, Ocean's Twelve is, nonetheless, a fun movie that is worth watching. It simply is not more than a forgettable diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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