Saturday, December 22, 2001

Ocean's XI

I know the original was no Citizen Kane but at least it had a few redeeming features: the sultans of swing, the cognoscenti of cool, the princes of pizzazz, the crowned heads of chutzpah....The Rat Pack: Dean Martin’s swingin’ rendition of Ain’t That a Kick in the Head was worth the price of admission alone.

If the first flick was chaotically undisciplined: an extemporaneous mess filtered through the alcoholic stupor of the principals (who squeezed the shoot in around a hectic schedule of carousing, cavorting and crooning at The Sands), Steve Soderbergh’s remake, by comparison, has all the pre-meditated “charm” of a profit and loss account.

It was a no-brainer right from the get-go: lock down a fail-safe cast of box office heavyweights, light the blue touch paper, retire to a safe distance and watch the feigned fun explode all over the Nevada sky: Perhaps Kerouac should have written, the only people for me are the boring, pretty ones?

The cast’s faux-spontaneous schtick is risible: a bunch of conceited goons throwing a party to which the audience hasn’t been invited.

Clooney as Danny Ocean, though no Sinatra, certainly possesses a scintilla of style but Brad Pitt was so wooden Soderbergh should have chopped him up for kindling, started a bonfire and thrown the rest of the cast on top.

There’s more wood on display here than in Jenna Jameson meets Pinocchio. Matt Damon isn’t so much a pale facsimile of Charisma as an anaemic forgery, and, please, don’t get me started on Don Cheadle…

What was that "mockney" accent all about?
Cor blimey, luv a duck, time to do a runner back to Blighty before the Old Bill gets wind of this casino caper.
Cheadle sounded like Dick Van Dyke in Lock, Stock and an Egregious "English" Accent.

Now come on Steve Soderbergh. I know you had some critical credit in the bank after Traffic, "Sex, Lies, Ad Neauseum. and Erin Whatshernameagain? but where did you find Don’s voice coach? Did you really think the guy who worked with Daphne's ersatz English family on Frasier was the right man for the job?

Last I heard, no-one in sanity’s catchment area is claiming the original was a classic, but a modicum of the Rat Pack’s indisputable cool certainly rubbed off on the project: Soderbergh’s version couldn’t swing if you nailed it to a pendulum.

If the first flick possessed the effortless, though slightly infuriating, charm of a Bardot, the remake’s ersatz pizzazz is reminiscent of a fake-tanned, silicone-enhanced, peroxide-blonde dental hygienist from Basildon named Debbie.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s fun, of a sort, to be had with Debbie, but it’s a vacuous, unsatisfying, vaguely sordid type of fun which appeals almost exclusively to the lumpen-proletariat.

The wrathful, the avaricious and the sullen are the Devil’s own demographic but, disconcertingly, the dead hand of Hollywood still has a rigid digit on the Purgatorial Pulse.