Tuesday 22 January 2008

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

Tuesday 22 January 2008
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Brian Koppelman & David Levien

Cast: George Clooney (Danny Ocean), Brad Pitt (Rusty Ryan), Matt Damon (Linus Caldwell), Andy Garcia (Terry Benedict), Don Cheadle (Basher Catton), Bernie Mac (Frank Catton), Casey Affleck (Virgil Malloy), Scott Caan (Turk Malloy), Shaobo Qin (The Amazing Yen), Carl Reiner (Livingston Dell), Elliot Gould (Reuben Tishkoff), Eddie Izzard (Roman Nagel), Al Pacino (Willy Bank), Vincent Cassel (Francois "The Nightfox" Toulour), Ellen Barkin (Abigail Sponder), Bob Einstein (Debbie), David Paymer (V.U.P), Julian Sands (Greco Montgomery) & Angel Oquendo (Guard Ortega)

Danny reassembles his team to avenge a mutual friend who was conned by an unscrupulous casino owner...

Steven Soderbergh returns with his third Ocean's film, which he seems to use as a mainstream touchstone and opportunity to have fun with his famous friends.

After 2001's hip remake of the brat-pack original hit the jackpot, 2004's Euro-based sequel was an indulgent misstep that bored and irritated audiences. Ocean's Thirteen hopes to redress the balance, by returning to its spiritual home of Las Vegas and using a plot driven by brothers-in-arms revenge...

The story gets underway when Vegas old-timer Reuben (Elliot Gould) is conned by business partner Willie Bank (Al Pacino) over the building of a mega-casino, forced to sign away a fortune, and suffers a near-fatal heart-attack as a result.

Unfortunately for Bank, Reuben has 12 friends who aren't happy to see their friend laid up in bed. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) quickly assembles his team (Brad Pitt's Rusty, Matt Damon's Linus, Don Cheadle's Basher, etc), and enlists the help of Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) to help them ensure Bank' s new casino has the worst opening night ever -- by rigging slot-machines, craps tables, stealing prized diamonds, and disrupting the occasion with a fake earthquake.

If you've seen the other movies, you'll know what to expect from Thirteen. It's frenetic, quirky, witty, beautifully-shot and charismatically acted by all concerned. Just by virtue of simplicity, it's immediately a stark improvement over the messy Ocean's Twelve, although the plot can't hold a candle to the infinitely superior Ocean's Eleven.

Essentially, this is "sit back and enjoy" stuff; effectively entertaining and amusing, but not really that interesting, original or surprising. The performances by everyone are fine, although Casey Affleck is wasted as Virgil Malloy and Bernie Mac is pushed into the background with Scott Caan -- leaving Clooney, Pitt and Damon to dominate everything, with chirpy interruptions from "cockney" Cheadle.

The biggest frustration is that legendary Al Pacino ends up coasting through the film on autopilot, Ellen Barkin is disappointing female support for a franchise that once had Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones as its eye-candy, and the "surprise" return of villain Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) serves no real purpose beyond audience rib-poking.

The enjoyment of the Ocean's trilogy (even the atrocious Twelve, at times) comes from seeing impossibly handsome guys draw-up an impossible plan, and make it possible. The piece-moving of their plot to ruin Banks' opening night is often amusing (a casino reviewers' nightmare stay), quite intriguing (magnetized dice), sometimes ridiculous ($36 million to dig a tunnel just to simulate a quake?), but it's always great fun to watch unfold.

And that's what you do with Ocean's Thirteen: you watch it unfold. It looks like the cast is having fun, the broad strokes of the story is fun, and I had fun watching. It fades from memory almost immediately, the finale is a let-down (not helped by Pacino's limp reactions to the chaos), and it lacks the punch-twist of Ocean's Eleven... but it's a decent apology for the first sequel.

Thirteen is lucky for some, it seems. But time to cash in your chips, guys...

Warner Brothers
Budget: $85 million
122 minutes