** Review of “Syriana” (2005)

With this installment, the “Ocean’s Eleven” series is obviously running on fumes. Inexplicably named “Syriana”,  the usually debonair Danny Ocean (George Clooney) looks unkempt and alarmingly bloated as Clooney sleepwalks trough a pathetic performance, visibly hung over throughout the film.

The crew holding Clooney up for another take.




Sadly, Matt Damon’s character doesn’t fare any better. Saddled with a wife and a couple of kids,  Damon is tense and  unusually dour, and the amiable chemistry between Damon and Clooney is absent. (Perhaps the two had a falling out due to Clooneys carousing off set and that spills into this movie. One can only surmise.)

Of course this series is known for the well choreographed heists; the clockwork timing that makes caper films enjoyable, but here it’s a letdown as well. “Syriana” concerns an attempt to knock off some oil sheiks and the Beirut Hilton, it seems, but the screenplay is insanely convoluted. It is hard to imagine how they expected to pull it off – they do hardly any planning at all – and the payoff is confounding.

Understandably, Brad Pitt and (the delightful) Don Cheadle skipped this entry, surely turned off by the substandard script by writers that didn’t even seem to try to make the movie fun. Without spoiling it, the ending is a real downer and maybe it is time to just retire the Danny Ocean series entirely. At the very least, it needs a reboot because frankly, it is hard to fathom where they are going with these characters. 2 stars

(“Syriana is rated R.  It perversely wallows in a kind of violence rarely seen in  caper films. They rip Clooney’s fingernails out for heaven’s sake! No one laughed at our family’s viewing. The children were devastated and my wife threw up on the cat.”)



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