27 April 2020 | Criticalstaff
A Prequel to Ocean's Eleven.
This movie is okay, it did not provide me much excitement. It is a noir-love story buried inside a heist movie inside an action film.
However the movie is more interesting for everything that surrounds it rather than what happens in it. It is funny to see how similar it is to the Oceans' movie. They share all the same ingredients, except for the brutal violence that is in this movie. But the rest is pretty much on point, the camera work, the music, the dialog, the characters, even the tone with the witty funny light hearted lines.
The actors are what elevates the film : the plot is very simple but it has this old-school-hustlers charm to it. The film has flashbacks and attempts to do non-linear storytelling, but it is not necessary, the characters actions drive the movie.
George Clooney is suave robber Jack Foley, a character that is suave and cool, but not too much. He is street-wise and self-aware, he is the thief with a heart of gold. He is smart but that does not prevent him to fail in almost any of his schemes. We root for him not only because he his cool but also because the odds are against him. A character so efficient so relatable, so compelling that it will be the basis for glamour-superstar Danny Ocean.
Jennifer Lopez is young try-hard Jennifer Lopez. It is endearing to see the freshness and naivete of her character. She is basically the female love interest and her role revolves around being obsessed with Clooney. Again the contrast modern Jlo is the most enjoyable.
Don Cheadle plays the over-the-top villain. It works because is roughness and brutality play off against Clooney's smoothness.
The heist barely matters really, and that is where the film achieves balance. The universe is grounded and realistic (very violent and raw), but the characters effortlessly glide through it. I think that it gives the edge that was lacking in the Oceans' and therefore made those movies rely more heavily on swagger and bravado rather than charm and wit. In Ocean's the world is effortless and cool and suave, the characters are cool and effortless and suave : it deflates the tension somewhat. In Oceans defence, it make the film more palatable for the mainstream. This film on the other hand cannot really escape its genre. It stays in the bounds of the action movie.
This movie really acts a stepping stone for Clooney : it is part Dusk Till Dawn with the gruesome crime story and part Ocean's Eleven with the light hearted heist with no stakes.
The movies sexuality is also somewhat interesting. It is very difficult to watch in a post-me-too world. But in a strange way, it reinforce the overall sexual violence that the film portrays.
All in all it is a reflection of its era. I believe it stands next to Heat, Reservoir Dogs and others as part of the 90s golden age of heist-movies. The lost art of a simpler time.
Also the best-scene of the film is when a van drives up a snow-covered alley. The mesmerizing way the tires plow through the fresh snow is something I don't recall having seen in film. (Was it special effects ? was it one take ? we may never know)