In Ocean’s Eleven, Danny Ocean gets back the wife who had left him. (For a list of actors playing “the eleven,” see my previous review, Ocean’s Eleven: Danny’s Perfect Hand.) In Ocean’s Twelve, it’s Rusty Ryan’s turn to get back the girl.
At the beginning of the movie, Rusty is seen with Isabel Lahiri, who we find out later is the Senior Agent for Europol’s Organized Crime Unit. She is telling him about the evidence they have been collecting related to the Bulgari Heist—evidence which he knows would implicate him. In a preemptive move, he pretends to take a shower and escapes out the window.
Back in America, Danny and Jess are living under the aliases of Mr. and Mrs. Miguel Diaz. They are about to celebrate their “second third anniversary,” so we know they are remarried and it’s been over three years since he got out of jail.
Danny is in the city casing a bank and a jewelry store. He had talked to his wife about “easing back into society,” but he can’t keep from coming up with new schemes. Back home, Tess is having the house redecorated. Her banter with the housepainter about color (“That’s too oxblood…”) is a reference to her role in the 2003 movie, Mona Lisa Smile—one of the many inside jokes in the film. While she is talking to Danny on the phone, Terry Benedict and his two goons show up, and she warns him, trying to remember the line they have obviously rehearsed: “There is water in the basement, and the pilot light is out.”
Fortunately, Terry and his thugs are not there to harm her, but (unfortunately) to convey an ultimatum: Danny and his crew have two weeks to pay back all the money they stole from him, with interest, or they would be dead. Tess tells him he will never find the eleven.
But Benedict already knows where they are.
Terry catches up with Turk and his brother at an engagement dinner for Virgil. The bride will have to wait. Casey Affleck was just engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Summer Phoenix, a couple months before shooting began for the film.
The next scene shows Yen in a luxury apartment with his supermodel girlfriend. They are arguing over her photographer and money. Mixed in with scenes about the Eleven getting found by Terry Benedict, this scene seems out of place since there is no mention of the ultimatum. It does explain what Yen has been spending his money on, though.
Benedict intrudes upon Frank in a beauty salon. This is a reference to Bernie Mac’s obsession with looking flawless. In a 2003 interview with Time magazine, when asked if he were a “metrosexual,” Bernie told Rebecca Winters, “I get facials. I get a manicure and pedicure every week. I get my hair cut, and I oil myself down from head to toe.”
Basher is in the midst of a recording session when he is confronted by Benedict. The scene has Basher talking to an engineer about having to re-record songs in order play them on the radio. A noise in the studio bleeps out the foul language they are using. This scene could be a response to the M rating the Australian Classification Board gave Ocean’s Eleven. (The M rating is advisory only, indicating the movie is appropriate for teens 15 and over. The U.S. MPAA rating was PG-13.)
Linus Caldwell is shown in a car with Benedict. He asks Terry not to mention this incident to his father. This adds another tidbit to who Bobby Caldwell might be.
Saul Bloom finds out he has been made when his credit card is rejected, and the waiter tells him Saul’s “business manager,” Terry Benedict, says he would understand.
Livingston Dell is working as a stand-up comic when he finds out he has been discovered. (And not by a talent scout.)
Reuben is getting his palm read when Benedict’s goons drop in. This, of course, leads to his line, “This? You couldn’t see this?” Elliott Gould was a known client of the famous fortune teller, Marie Castello.
In the next scene Rusty meets up with Topher Grace, one of the stars he was teaching to play poker in the previous movie. Topher says a girl is driving him crazy, and he left the show—an obvious reference to the relationship of Eric and Donna in That 70’s Show. There is also a reference to his appearance in the Dennis Quaid movie, In Good Company. While with Topher, Rusty gets a call from Benedict, who tells him, “I’ve been asked to show restraint. Otherwise, you would’ve gone out to your favorite car of all that you own, and as soon as you turned on the ignition…” At this point, his 1963 Thunderbird blows up.
So, why doesn’t he just off them then and there? It seems Terry Benedict is not the only one who has been looking for Ocean’s Eleven.
Benedict has been looking to find the Eleven in order to exact revenge. But these is another looking for them out of arrogance and envy. The Night Fox, who we find out is Baron François Toulour, is the protégé of Gaspar LeMarc, famous for stealing the Fabergé Coronation Egg. After the Benedict Heist, LeMarc admires Ocean’s Eleven, which insults Toulour’s pride. LeMarc tells him it is impossible to know if either Danny or the Night Fox is the “greatest thief in the world,” so they devise a plan to force Danny’s attention, and get him to agree to a contest to find out who is the greatest.
Cons are best executed on the arrogant. That is why the Ocean’s Eleven plan worked so well against the prideful Terry Benedict. And that is why Danny will win this “game.” As with Ocean’s Eleven, the audience is also being conned. As with any good mystery story, the viewer is being misdirected. A couple years ago, a blogger named Andrew from New Zealand wrote about why he thought Ocean’s Twelve was “genius.” He showed how the movie was all about being conned.
- The Night Fox is conning Ocean’s Eleven (so he thinks) with an un-winnable challenge.
- Ocean’s Eleven are conning the Night Fox so he will pay off Benedict, having already won his challenge.
- Le Marc is conning the Night Fox (we find out later).
- Le Marc is (openly) conning Ocean’s Eleven to get the egg and his daughter from them all for nothing.
- Ocean’s Eleven are conning Isabel to make their con of the Night Fox more believable.
- Isabel is conning the Italian police out of their resources, like father like daughter.
- Isabel is conning Nagel into betraying Rusty.
- The Night Fox is conning Benedict into shepherding Ocean’s Eleven right to his doorstep.
- Le Marc is conning Isabel by playing dead and hiding the fact that he is her father.
- Linus’ Mom is conning Isabel out of her prisoners.
- Danny is conning Tess into experiencing the world of the con artist, so she can see why he doesn’t want to retire.
- Rusty is conning Isabel to win her back.
- Rusty is conning Ocean’s Eleven by hiding Isabel from them.
- The Night Fox is conning Matsui into hiring Ocean’s Eleven for a job that puts them right where he wants them.
- Either the Night Fox or Le Marc or both are conning van de Woude out of his stock certificate.
and perhaps the most entertaining running joke of all,
- Ocean’s gang are all conning the amateur Linus about feeling important!!
Andrew goes on to analyze the film’s intricate details, showing this is not just a “popcorn movie.” What is amazing to me, however, is despite the intricacies of the movie, it also can be enjoyed as a “popcorn movie.” It may have the traits of a great detective novel, but it is also just plain fun to watch. Pulling off both puts it a notch higher for me.
There are, however, a couple holes which the details don’t seem to explain: Why did Saul go to Amsterdam? He had bowed out of the plan, and he wasn’t needed to get Tess there. And there is also the question of why Benedict doesn’t just go after them after he gets his money. Is it the whole “honor among thieves” thing? Benedict doesn’t seem to be the type of guy who has any scruples at all—even the scruples of thieves.
When you live the life of a con, you never know when someone is going to turn on you. You may get the girl back, as Rusty does, but you are never truly free. Even if the government authorities don’t get you, your associates just might turn on you.
The world is trying to con us. People everywhere are trying to manipulate us into playing their game so they can prove they’re the greatest. The truth isn’t easy to find.
How can we know when we’re being conned? Sometimes we will just be wrong. But when it comes to the things that really matter, Jesus had some words of encouragement – if we will be honest with ourselves, and put away our arrogance.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:31-32]
Jesus was not a con man. If you want to know the truth about the things that really matter, follow Jesus and His teachings. In the context of John 8, there were those who could not understand because they were arrogant. We must set aside out preconceived ideas and listen with open minds. That’s when the truth will set us free. Free indeed.