The heist film lives on.
The heist film lives on every time a slick gang of bad boys and girls gathers to take something that doesn't belong to them, and we go along because these crooks are "cool." Three years ago in the very watchable Heist, Gene Hackman was a rough but competent jewel thief aided by the usual gang of helpers conning nasty fence Danny DeVito of his ill-gotten gains. That was then and the literate David Mamet (Spartan) was director. Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven came out that same year, a smooth caper film with hip actors such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Matt Damon stealing a cool $150 million from casino owner Andy Garcia. Heist was a better character study; Ocean's Eleven was more fun.
Ocean's Twelve brings back the same relaxed thieves plus Catherine Zeta-Jones in a more complicated project, three European robberies culminating in stealing a Faberge egg to assuage the vengeful anger of Andy Garcia's casino owner. Europe, especially the wide-open and beautiful Amsterdam, looks as inviting as ever, though Chris Connier's cinematography (Angela's Ashes) is nothing to write home about. The actors seem jet-lagged and the plot weary from trying to be ingenious and new while it is really tired and old.
More intriguing than the de rigueur fashion clothes for this series is the addition of Vincent Cassel (Birthday Girl) as Francois Toulour, the superior thief arguably better than Danny Ocean but still not as good as the world's best, LeMarc (Albert Finney). Cassel's savoir-faire and dance among the museum's laser beams are welcome relief from the cliches of Clooney and gang.
But continuing to enjoy even the most modest of heist films such as Ocean's Twelve, I come out of the theater with a smile although my admission dollars were stolen. As Shakespeare said in Othello, "The robb'd that smiles, steals something from the thief."
I want to go back to Amsterdam but not with tired thieves. Give me an old but young Gene Hackman and a plot to keep the jet lag at bay.