Ocean’s Eleven

By Mark Ramsey | 2001/12/04

You might guess Ocean’s Eleven, stuffed with superstar guys and dolls, lensed by an Oscar-winning director, and heralded by an avalanche of pre-release hype, has all the tell-tale signs of Bombsville.

You’d guess wrong.

Ocean’s Eleven is Sin-City-sational! The story crackles, the stars pop, the dialogue zips, the music grooves. From frame one to frame last, it’s well-written, well-acted, well-directed – just plain well!


This movie is inspired by the Rat Pack original. That’s where Frank, Sammy, Dean, Peter, and cardigan king Joey Bishop sucked on Lucky’s, gulped martinis, and generally caroused for ring-a-ding chicks. That was their bag, baby, and someone had to do it.

Fast-forward to 2001 and check the talent roster: Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia.

Wait…Andy Garcia? Did somebody at Central Casting accidentally shuffle the headshots? Don’t forget to cut the deck, dealer. I call your Andy Garcia and raise you a Mickey Rourke! Andy’s a fine actor and all (and he’s perfect in the role), but the highlight of his late model filmography is “Grammy Presenter”.

Ocean’s Eleven is brought to you by director Steven Soderbergh, who has beaten the odds himself lately. Not because he won an Oscar statuette but because he won an even bigger prize, the heart of statuesque Jules Asner, E!’s Wild On cover-model. Evidently Jules has shirked all the guys who direct traffic for…the guy who directed Traffic.

Back to the movie….

Julia Roberts is, as Old Blue-Eyes might say, the tomato with the crazy charlies. She’s the ex-wife barn burner of George Clooney, but now she’s the baby of big leaguer Garcia. Andy’s a crumb who’s hacked off at George and wants him to go scramsville. You dig?

Aha, but George has a scam! One aimed at cashing out bazillions in riches and one Pretty Womanly broad with a platinum smile and a healthy head of hair. Jackpot, baby!

As Danny Ocean, Clooney orchestrates the biggest casino heist in history, not counting the abject theft of common decency during every performance of Charo’s new stage show. Charo, the old-schoolers will recall, was the one-time “Cuchi-Cuchi-Girl” who’s now the “Cuchi-Cuchi-Female-Impersonator.” I say when your teeth start swingin’ without you it’s time for the swingin’ to stop. Endsville, baby.

Besides the headline superstars, there are several supporting players who are in the proverbial groove. There’s a terrific play for comic Bernie Mac and an even better one for the great Carl Reiner. There’s Don Cheadle, who’s evidently attracted to Sammy Davis, Jr. roles like Nathan Lane to footlights.


There’s a smarmy Elliot Gould as a filthy rich, retired casino kingpin. He finances the heist, and his personal style confuses “gaudy” with “Gautier.” Trust me, watching Elliot Gould eat is like peering into a blender as it purees. Elliot’s look is definitely 70′s-era Peter Lawford. Poor Peter. Perhaps he would have lived longer had he not been one martini removed from every high-profile criminal conspiracy of the last fifty years.

If Ocean’s Eleven can’t get a star it gets the next best thing: relatives of stars. Guys like Casey Affleck and Scott Caan. Where better than Vegas to fill a movie with celebrity impersonators?

I loved the inside joke where Andy screams into his phone to a “Mr. Levin” that he wouldn’t get tickets to the Big Fight but “I’m sure you have HBO.” I’m betting that would be HBO paternal figure and AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin! That fractures me, baby!

Check out some of this word-play:

George to Julia, about Andy: “Does he make you laugh?” Julia: “He doesn’t make me cry.”

George to Julia: “I received the divorce papers.” Julia: “I told you I’d write.”

This is dynamite dialogue, folks, in a jewel of a screenplay for a modern classic of a movie.

“Are you in or are you out?” asks Clooney.

I’m in.

Ocean’s Eleven is a gas!

Photos Copyright ©2001 Warner Brothers


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