Ocean's 11 (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The original Sinatra version of Ocean's 11 may be the single film in history with the most undeserved cachet.

Of course, it had a special kind of cool because the entire Rat Pack performed in it together, and Sinatra called all the shots, several times reportedly humiliating the director publicly. Sinatra was an egomaniac, so how could any mere director tell him what to do? Besides, they only had so much time to devote to this movie, and that didn't permit many retakes. They only had 24 hours in each day, and they were performing in the casino at night as well as filming during the day, and they also needed plenty of time for smokin', drinkin', and fuckin'.

So the movie was just Sinatra and his guys hanging around and acting cool. They were good at that. Nobody was hipper than Frank. Nobody was cooler than Dino. Nobody had more talent than Sammy. They were the ultimate "swingers". (TRIVIA: Angie Dickinson appears in both versions)


None. Not even close.

To a great extent, the remake, although a far more professional movie, is more of the same.

  • It isn't really plot-driven, because the heist isn't all that suspenseful, and they made a lot of logic errors. In fact, very large ones. For example, Clooney was supposed to be getting beaten up by a gigantic bruiser for about 30 minutes during the heist. That was his alibi. When they opened up the door to check on him after the heist, after 30 minutes of painful screaming and noisy, bone-breaking crashes into the wall (all to fool the guys outside), was he beaten to a bloody pulp?  Hell, no. He had an unkempt tie and what looked like a shaving cut. Do you think the high-rolling Andy Garcia ultrabaddie would have bought that con? No way. I did, however, enjoy some of the surprises that were hidden from the audience. Soderbergh, like a good poker player, kept his hole cards hidden, and the revelations added pleasure to the film.
  • It isn't really character-driven because there are too damned many of them to keep track of. To tell you the truth, I think they hurt themselves with the title. It's difficult to develop enough material to develop a gang of 11 guys, a bad guy, and a girlfriend, so some of these guys have virtually no back story or character development. They have the usual stock-footage suspects: the demolition guy, the computer expert, the robotics guys, the pickpockets and con men. Ben Cheadle is just a cockney accent and explosions. The characters played by Matt Damon and Scott Caan seemed to have no personalities of any kind, and we don't find out much about them. Not only could the movie have dispensed with them, but Caan, in fact, even had a gratuitous brother just to pad the count up to 11. Even the Brad Pitt character didn't seem to have that much character development, just bored one-liners and fast food. I wouldn't have minded it they had renamed it Ocean's 7, and made it Clooney and Pitt and five stock characters instead of nine.

So what is the film really? It is a movie star vehicle. It's glamorous, glib, entertainment. It's our modern version of Sinatra and Dino, or Gable and Lombard, hanging out on screen, having fun, exchanging snappy banter, and letting us hang with them for a while.

Oh, the actors aren't in charge this time. Steven Soderbergh helmed the project, and he's a disciplined director, but he's smart enough to know that if you're going to make an ultrahip swinging movie with cool personalities, you have to let them do their thing. So Soderbergh tries to stay out of the way and let everyone be hip and amusing. To a great extent, he succeeds. George Clooney and Brad Pitt, perhaps the last two remaining movie stars, give us their twinkliest eyes, and their various cohorts cavort around appropriately. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • "making of" documentary

  • special on the costumes

  • two commentary tracks (one with actors, one with Soderbergh)

Frankly, they needed a different leading lady. Julia Roberts didn't have the looks or the charm to have been what all the fuss was about. She looked thin and haggard, and she acted strident, as if now permanently possessed by the ghost of Erin Brockovich. More to the point, she isn't "cool". She always plays it strident and irritating. It needed Jolie or even Mrs. Pitt - someone who could match barbs with the boys.

Surprisingly, the tacked-on ending of the film is virtually an ad for a sequel! 

Overall, it's pretty good mindless entertainment, lots of stars delivering plenty of hip one-liners.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5 
  • With their dollars ... a massive hit $183 million domestic gross alone. $85 million budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Great star vehicle. Too loose with the logic to be a plot-driven heist picture, too many characters to be character-driven. It is simply a big rollicking, swinging, ring-a-ding, kookoo good time.

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