Genre Grandeur – Heist Movies: Ocean’s Eleven & Ocean’s Thirteen

Ted_review
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This post is part of MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur (or Guesstimation) series. Thanks to my pal Ted S. for his review of one of his favorite films of the genre.


I lost count on how many times I’ve watched these two Ocean’s films; I’m going to pretend that Ocean’s 12 never existed; the self-indulgent film was an embarrassing to everyone who’s involved in making it. Don’t get me started on the whole Julia Roberts pretended to be Julia Roberts sequence. I wanted to punch the writers and director Steven Soderbergh for thinking that we the audience would be that stupid and thought it would be a fun scene to watch.

Well speaking of Soderbergh, in the early 2000s, he’s the director every actor wanted to work with. If I remember correctly, two of his films in 2000, Traffic and Erin Brockovich were box office hits and got nominated for best picture at the Oscars. He received the golden statue for directing Traffic. So of course there were big expectations for his next picture. Opened during the holiday season of 2001, Ocean’s Eleven was one of that year’s biggest hits and spawned two sequels. Of course the cast was probably the big draw, packed with three A-listers George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts; veterans Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould and young up and coming actors such as Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.
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Recently paroled Danny Ocean (Clooney) decides to get in touch with some of his old buddies including black jack dealer named Frank Catton (the late great Bernie Mac) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt). They hatched a plan to steal money from two Las Vegas casinos during a big boxing match that could be worth more than $130mil. The casinos are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who happens to be dating Ocean’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). In order to get their plan rolling, they need some funding from Benedict’s rival Reuben (Elliot Gould). With backing from Reuben, Danny and Rusty went and recruit the rest of the team.

What I love about this film was the chemistry with each of the actors; they were all believable to me as a team on a mission. I especially love the bickering between the Mormon twins (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan). The script was well written and the actual heist was very clever and fun to watch. Unlike some other heist genre film, there were no twists or backstabbing from someone in the team. They finished their mission and everyone got paid.

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After the disastrous Ocean’s 12, Soderbergh decided to fix his mistake from the second sequel and brought the team back for another heist in Vegas. In Ocean’s Thirteen, the team’s mission this time is revenge. After Reuben was left for dead by his former partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino), Danny and Rusty wanted to break Bank’s brand new casino. Unlike the second sequel where I felt the actors and filmmakers were having fun but we the audience were left out. In this film, Soderbergh brought back the fun and I had a great time with it; heck I think I liked it better than the first film. The heist itself was quite clever, instead of stealing the money from the casino for themselves, Ocean’s team decided to let everyone win big. Speaking as someone who goes to Vegas regularly and gambles there, I would have loved to be involved in this heist.

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Pacino w/ Ellen Barkin who’s quite the scene stealer in the movie

These two Ocean films aren’t the best in the heist genre but they sure are fun to watch. Maybe because it’s set in one of my favorite cities to visit Las Vegas, it’s the reason why I can’t get enough of these films.

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Well, what do YOU think of these two Ocean’s films? Which of the trilogy is your favorite? 

Small Roles Big Performances: Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)


Greetings, all and sundry. Allow me a few moments to entertain and possibly elucidate in an arena that all actors and actresses dream of. To be given a secondary role in a film with a strong lead, a better than decent story and a budget and director worthy of telling a story well.

In this case, a film based on the Walter Mosely’s post WWII, hard boiled private eye novel Devil in a Blue Dress. I’d read the paper back a few years later and started putting together its cast in my head. Denzel Washington was a shoo-in for the recently, possibly unfairly laid off Champion Aviation’s defense plant employee, Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins. Though I couldn’t come up for a suitable actor to play Easy’s polite, possibly psychotic, sadistic back up man, ‘Mouse’ Alexander.

I need have bothered. Carl Franklin and others of higher wisdom made that seamless decision for me. Casting an actor who I’d never seen before, Don Cheadle; to do some of Easy’s heavy lifting. Loyal and prompt when it comes to answering a call from Easy, who is in way over his head. Investigating a missing and elusive Daphne, Jennifer Beals. Who may or may not be involved
with an up and coming powerful politician. Mouse is also dapper, quick and knowledgeable when it comes to saving Easy’s bacon when confronted by a knife wielding henchman. Deftly breaking up the fracas and seating the thug in a chair for a few questions.

Don Cheadle’s Mouse is incredibly polite when asking. And uses slightly more than equal force when his questions are rebuffed. In the form of a formidable, slightly smaller than a Horse Pistol, Webley Mk VI revolver. Which he uses to focus the thug’s waning, erratic attention. By blowing a dime sized hole in his right thigh before asking again.

That, elegantly smooth action and follow up put Denzel in the back seat for much of the remainder of the film. As Easy and Mouse glean information and clues and follow them deeper and deeper down the rabbit’s hole of vagaries, lies, good intentions gone bad and double crosses. As the final pieces come together with the rescue aid of Daphne and the recovery of a large chunk of blackmail money. Aided by slimy, sweaty, bent as barbed wire ‘Joppy’ (Mel Winkler), who is constantly trying to live beyond his means. Easy, Mouse and Joppy drive out to the Hollywood Hills to set up a final ambush with the politician’s uncouth front man, DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) and some crooked protectors. Easy leaves Joppy with Mouse, who loans Easy a .32 Colt Hammerless Automatic. Easy give Mouse a warning not to shoot Joppy as Easy disappeared in shadows. Distance is traveled. Shots are fired and Easy returns to find Joppy dead as Mouse answers, “You said don’t shoot him, right? Well I didn’t; I choked… If you didn’t want me to kill him, why did you leave me alone with him?”.

Creating a fine introduction to a talent to watch. Before adding to his repertoire with the role of recurring D.A. John Littleton opposite Tom Skerritt and Kathy Bates in Picket Fences from CBS between 1993 and 95. Then as a poor black man with his back against the wall in 1923 Jim Crow Florida in John Singleton’s Rosewood in 1997. Before playing second string porn star, Buck Swope in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights the same year.

Then adding his very personal, believable take on Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO’s The Rat Pack with Ray Liotta and Joe Mantegna. Building up credibility while honing his skills in ensemble, genre films through 2000 and 2001. Before latching onto the role of group psychologist, Dr. David Monroe opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Jordan Melamed’s independent, Manic. Where the
harried and pressured doctor tries many ways to get through to and make progress with self loathing, destructive, head banging,cutting teens. And surrender is not an option.

Clockwise: Cheadle in The Rat PackBoogie Nights and Hotel Rwanda

Creating a better than decent body of work for Steve Soderbergh’s opening Ocean’s Eleven franchise. When dividing his times Detective Graham Waters in Paul Haggis’ star heavy, Crash in 2004. Then turning in a fine performance battling Hutus and the bureaucracy to save innocent lives in Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda. Then knocking it out of the park as 1960s Washington, DC disc jockey, talk show host and activist, Petey Green in Kasi Lemmon’s Talk to Me in 2007.


Small Roles … Big Performances Blogathon



Thoughts on Don Cheadle? What’s your favorite role(s) from the 47-year-old thespian?