In the summer of 2001, the box offices around the world were set alight with the runaway success of Ocean’s 11; a remake of the Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack film of the same name from 1960. Though this time, things were just a little different.
The premise of the film was simple; a group of extremely talented people, eleven to be precise, attempt to rob not just one, but three Las Vegas casinos, oh and they have to get away it!
George Clooney portrayed the main antagonist Danny Ocean, a cool ex-con just released from prison and seeking nothing more than to get back with his ex-girlfriend. The casting of George Clooney was truly inspirational in that at that time he was considered box office gold, with a reputation that he was loved by the ladies and admired by the men for his style, and easy-going persona.
His best friend, Rusty, portrayed by Brad Pitt, was equally cool, calm and collected and was the perfect character straight man to Danny Ocean. Added to this group were Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, a pair of brothers who were stunt drivers and clearly had “too much time on their hands”, Bernie Mac, the man with the inside knowledge of Las Vegas itself; Eddie Jemison as the electronic and technical wizard; Carl Reiner as the ageing, but perfectly placed “front man”, and Shaobo Qin as Yen, “The Grease Man”.
Rounding out the eleven were Matt Damon (fresh from his success from The Bourne Identity), portraying a top class pick pocket; Elliot Gould as Reuben, their friend and also the guy who can set up anything they need.
Oh, and in case you have been counting, yep, that’s just ten - this film also had an ace on the table in the form of Julia Roberts as Tess, Danny Ocean’s ex-girlfriend who is now working for (and having a relationship with) Andy Garcia’s Terry Bennedict.
Every good caper film needs a villain and Andy Garcia was practically chewing the celluloid in every scene when he was on the screen as Terry Bennedict, the casino owner of The Mirage, The Bellagio and The MGM Grand.
With characters in place, what followed by director Steven Soderbergh was a rollercoaster ride round the city of Las Vegas, with amazing camera work which allowed the audience to practically smell the atmosphere off the casino floor to the neon flashing Las Vegas Strip.
With so many twists, misdirections, comedy moments and a superb ending, and matched against a superb soundtrack by Belfast’s own David Homes, it was little wonder that this film became box office gold on its first release.
With such a success on their hands, it was little wonder that Warner Bros desired a sequel and the cast jumped on board! Released in 2004, Ocean’s 12 blasted onto the screens, reuniting the original eleven with one major addition to the cast: Catherine Zeta Jones (fresh from receiving the Academy Award for her role in Chicago).
With such high expectations from both critics and audiences alike, it was a difficult task, but almost delivered what we had to come to expect from returning Director Steven Soderbergh.
By now, the main cast of characters had achieved their goals in the first film, Danny Ocean having won his Tess back and getting revenge on the guy that took her, the rest of the guys enjoying their spoils from their gains from robbing the casinos.
But Terry Bennedict (Andy Garcia) was NOT happy, and one by one we see each of the old gang tracked down and given the ultimatum: go to jail, or do a job for Bennedict (Not much of a choice really!)
The second film was similar to the first, though this time the setting was in Rome and to be fair the acting was the same high standard as before, but it just seemed something was lacking. Maybe not glaringly obvious, but just a little something that you had seen in the first film but was missing in the second.
Once again audiences flocked to the cinemas and pretty much, like the first film, the movie was a global success, surpassing everyone’s expectations. The question remained though, was this the last time we would see the gang together?
The plot of this final film was again simple; exact revenge on a Las Vegas casino owner by humiliating him!
Once again, the public learned that it’s not the premise but the way that it’s executed that gives them such delight. All of the returning cast members from the first film were back for one final caper.
But yet again, things were turned a little on their head. Rueben (Elliot Gould) was shunned and conned out of his share of the new and literally overshadowing casino The Bank Resort by casino owner Willy Banks, played chillingly well by Al Pacino.
It seemed that Willy Banks had annoyed everyone in Las Vegas, and even Terry Bennedict wants to join in on this caper, and join in he does…
This final film did not disappoint on any level. The shooting returned to the neon flashing Las Vegas strip, with more eye opening visuals of the Strip and casino floor than the first film (and especially that aerial view both during the day and at night!), we also got a tantalising look at the glamour and glitz and also the games of the casino that dubbed it “America’s Playground”, this film was returning to familiar ground.
George Clooney, once again gave a mesmerising performance as the leader of his ever increasing group and with so many plot twists and turns it was little wonder that this film broke the box office takings made from the first two movies.
The trilogy on the whole was about revenge, set mainly against Las Vegas and incorporating a splendid cast of incredibly gifted actors who were all on top of their game, and blistering soundtracks that epitomised what the core set of characters were: simply cool!
And in the heat of that desert, there has never been a trilogy of films that have portrayed Las Vegas as cool as what director Steven Sodenbergh brought to the screen. To Danny Ocean and his fellow crew, we at FTN salute you as, with each viewing, you are still making us jealous by proving “The House” can be beaten!