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Ocean's Eleven: Special Edition

If this is the kind of movie Steven Soderbergh makes for kicks, his "serious" films are just going to keep getting better. Hip, fast-paced, and always impeccably dressed, Ocean's Eleven (2001) is the heist flick as an artistic statement, an auteur's take on escapist caper cinema. Naturally, it all takes place in Vegas, baby, where suave con man Danny Ocean (George Clooney) masterminds a daring scheme to relieve three casinos of approximately $150 million in cash. Motivated as much by revenge as by greed — Danny's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), is dating ruthless casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) — Danny recruits a crack team to help him carry off the plan. There's his right-hand man, Rusty (a dapper Brad Pitt), plus a tightly wound munitions expert (Don Cheadle), a pair of odd-couple getaway drivers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck), a suspicious pickpocket (Matt Damon), a wise-cracking card dealer (Bernie Mac), a nerdy tech whiz (Edward Jemison), a veteran flimflammer (Carl Reiner), a contortionist (Shaobo Qin), and a florid former casino tycoon with a grudge (Elliot Gould). The intricate plot takes several improbable twists, but it never fails to entertain, whether the Eleven are donning disguises or cruising the strip. And the actors are obviously enjoying themselves; their energy and chemistry ratchet Ted Griffin's sharp, rapid-fire script up a notch. The only actor who's wasted is Roberts; Tess is pretty and appropriately conflicted about her feelings, but her few scenes don't give her much room to develop. Far more effective as a partner for Danny is Rusty; Clooney and Pitt play off each other perfectly and have the kind of shorthand most couples only dream about. Their clear joy in their roles, combined with Soderbergh's flashy, upbeat direction, turns Ocean's Eleven into the Las Vegas of movies: bright, exciting, and — if you go in with the right attitude — lots of fun. Warner's DVD has plenty to offer, starting with a strong, rich anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and a crisp Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (French 5.1 and English 2.0 are also available, as are English, Spanish, and French subtitles). For a special edition, there aren't all that many extras, but the ones that made it to the disc were well chosen. Two commentary tracks — one with Damon, Pitt, and Garcia, the other with Soderbergh and Griffin — offer a mix of self-depreciating humor, production information, and lavish praise, while a pair of featurettes spotlight costumes and more general making-of tidbits. Other features include three trailers, cast and crew credits, and DVD-ROM goodies. Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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