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Ocean's Thirteen (2007) Print E-mail
Friday, 08 June 2007
Better than “Ocean’s Twelve,” but not as much fun as “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” is lightweight summer fun, but does suggest that this particular well is now rather dry. These guys are fun to spend time with, and clearly enjoy working together, but it’s probably time to bid farewell to Danny Ocean and his playmates.

Like the first—which was an improved remake of a Frank Sinatra And The Rat Pack movie—“Ocean’s Thirteen” is set in Las Vegas; it’s another caper movie in more or less the format of the French “Rififi,” which established the model. A slick group of clever criminals get together to pull of a rich heist; we see the planning, then we see the execution—which doesn’t go as smoothly as intended. This is called conflict. And it’s about the only conflict in the movie.

This time, long-time Vegas fixture Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould, pretty damned charming these days) has unwisely entered into a partnership with Willie Bank (Al Pacino), who’s bought up a lot of land in Vegas. Reuben is shocked when Bank cheerfully reveals he’s tricked Reuben out of partnership in a new casino and, in so doing, has swept away almost all of Reuben’s money. This causes the old-timer to have a severe heart attack, resulting in confinement to his bed; of course, it’s in a luxurious home.

But his old pal Danny Ocean (George Clooney) decides to gather his gang together once more in order to get revenge on Willie Bank on behalf of Reuben. Danny’s right-hand man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) is soon aboard; so is over-eager Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), always hoping to be more involved. This time, he’s ultimately assigned to romance Bank’s right-hand woman Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin, who doesn’t get enough to do); he has to do this at a specific time, and while wearing an alarming fake nose.

All the others are trotted out in due course, including Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) and Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner). To finance the elaborate scam—which involves helicopters, a fake earthquake, a card-shuffling machine and other playthings—Danny is forced to turn to big shot Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who was the target of the scam in “Ocean’s Eleven.” What he wants is Banks’ collections of diamonds which he’s awarded to himself every time one of his many hotels is give a five-diamond rating by a prestigious tourist rating service.

Another plot element is introduced when the gang trick Abigail into thinking Saul (Reiner in a wavy wig) is the guy who rates the diamonds. Meanwhile, Ocean’s team makes sure the REAL evaluator, played well by David Paymer, has an absolutely terrible time—which he assumes is the fault of the hotel.
According to the press kit, Basher helps out by sending many supportive letters to Reuben, although in the film itself, it’s hard to tell who that stack of letters comes from. But they do the trick: by the time the scam goes down on the night of the official opening of Bank’s incredible-looking new casino (like three intertwined monoliths 40 stories tall), Reuben’s out there on the floor, participating with a grin.

Brothers Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Caan) are back; Virgil gets a job at a Mexican factory with the goal of fixing dice being made there for the opening of Bank’s casino. But he becomes concerned with the low pay and poor working conditions of the workers at the plant, and helps out in a major strike. This is a very odd side detail, but fits well into the film.

The script by writing partners Brian Koppelman and David Levien (“Rounders”) is witty and well-organized; it gives everyone a scene of their own, and wraps everything up neatly enough. However, Steven Soderbergh’s direction is so relaxed and casual, it’s often a little difficult to figure out what’s going on and why. (As usual, under a pseudonym, Soderbergh does his own expert cinematography.) It also helps if you’ve committed the plots of “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve” to memory; otherwise, you might not understand such exchanges as this: “Where are Tess and Isabel?” someone asks Danny. “Not their fight,” he explains. Being British would help in understanding a reference to Morecambe & Wise. Maybe the line was there for the benefit of Eddie Izzard, who fits well into Ocean’s team.

The dialogue is relaxed and amusing, though rarely laugh-out-loud funny. “You’re analog players in a digital world,” someone cautions Ocean. The movie is very slightly sentimental about the old days in Vegas, as when Clooney and Pitt reminisce about how things were better then. So it’s not surprising to hear the outraged Reuben tell Bank, “There’s a code among guys who shook Sinatra’s hand,” who sneers at the idea. But mostly the humor comes out of scenes rather than the dialogue, as when Rusty Is surprised to find Danny in sentimental tears over an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s TV show—then surprised to find himself also tearing up over the show. (Oprah appears in person near the end of the movie, in an especially amusing scene with Garcia.)

The biggest newcomer here is Al Pacino, who’s clearly enjoying himself as a sleek scumbag, but he’s never given a scene where he can explode. That’s a shame, as Pacino explodes so entertainingly. Mostly he just zips through the amazing sets by Philip Messina, moving at top speed, tossing off nasty cracks as he goes. The casino set isn’t the real thing; it’s even gaudier than real Vegas casinos, and colorful enough to almost be a character itself, much like the building it’s supposedly housed in (but was really built on a vast sound stage at Warners).

“Ocean’s Thirteen” is sleekly produced by the amazing Jerry Weintraub (back in the 60s, he booked both Elvis AND the Beatles), who even has a cameo here. It’s relaxed summer entertainment with a top-notch cast having a good time; you probably will, too. The Rat Pack would have loved it.

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