Ocean's Eleven | 2001
Steven Soderbergh remakes the 1960s Rat Pack caper with locations not only in Nevada but in Los Angeles, Chicago, Florida and New Jersey. Wisely, he obeys the golden rule of remakes – don't pick a classic, pick a near-miss. The original 1960 version of Ocean's Eleven depended on the blokey charm of the Rat Pack and ambled on for well over two hours.
The idiosyncratic Steven Soderbergh, one of the few directors equally at home with arthouse or mainstream (Kafka, Schizopolis, Out of Sight...) assembles a dazzling cast and keeps the plot bouncing along. It looks so easy. So why isn't everybody doing it?
Unlike the original (which targeted five joints in one night), only one casino is robbed: the Bellagio, 3600 South Las Vegas Boulevard, with its eight-acre lake and fountains, standing on the site of the legendary Dunes. The film's coda uses the casino's wonderfully kitschy 'dancing waters' to surprisingly poignant effect. And when did you last get 'poignant' in a Vegas movie?
The battle for attention along the Vegas Strip is getting increasingly surreal, with water features getting bigger and bigger and wetter and wetter. Don't forget, this is the middle of the desert. First there was La Mirage with its volcano, Treasure Island with its pirate battle (now reduced o a cheesy song'n'dance show), then Bellagio – an Italian lakeside village. But just in case this might be deemed a mite self-effacing for Vegas, BOOM! – the waters dance! Every half hour. To anything from Aaron Copeland's Rodeo to the Pink Panther theme. A taste of authentic Italian village culture.
Released from East Jersey State Prison, Route 1, Avenel, New Jersey, formerly known as Rahway State Penitentiary, and seen also in Spike Lees Malcolm X. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is soon violating parole and recruiting a team: Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) at the baccarat pit of the, now famously closed, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, on the Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue, Atlantic City; Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) in Chicago, at Irish pub Emmit's, 495 North Milwaukee Avenue; Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), who’s teaching TV stars poker in the back room (though it doesn’t really have a back room) of, what was then Deep, 1707 North Vine Street at Hollywood Boulevard. Conveniently, Deep was part-owned by director Soderbergh. The nightclub went on to become Basque, but that too has since closed.
Ryan, in turn, approaches old hand Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) at Derby Lane Dog Track, 10490 Gandy Boulevard, St Petersburg, Florida. The ‘San Diego’ circus, where Yen (Shaobo Qin) impresses with his acrobatic skills, was set up in the grounds of the dog track.
Rusty and Danny drink in the venerable Musso and Frank's Grill, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard. Seen also in Tim Burton's Ed Wood and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, this is pure Hollywood history, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood (it opened in 1919). It was a favoured hangout for writers – F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler (he supposedly wrote The Big Sleep here) and Dashiell Hammett (recently namechecked as one of the three precogs in Minority Report were regulars. Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart drank here and it’s still a hangout for Hollywood royalty. Try to get seated in the luxurious older section of the restaurant, and sample the legendary martinis.
The ‘Vegas’ home of Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) is in the Californian desert resort of Palm Springs, at 999 North Patencio. The ‘most successful Vegas robbery ever’, according to Tishkoff, is the guy scuttling out of Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South (seen in Rain Man) to the strains of Take My Breath Away.
The ‘California Institute of Advanced Science’, from which the team steals a ‘pinch’ to create an electromagnetic pulse, is the Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility on the campus of the University of California at Irvine.
While his vaults are being emptied, Bellagio owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) is watching a boxing match at the the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South at Tropicana Avenue currently the largest and most ambitious of the Vegas resorts, but these things change fast. And of course, the film ends in front of the Bellagio’s kitschy, but effective, dancing waters.