Ocean's Thirteen (2007) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sensuality
Running time: 122 min.

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, David Paymer, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Izzard, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Eddie Jemison, Bob Einstein, Julian Sands, Vincent Cassel, Oprah Winfrey (cameo)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Review published June 8, 2007

One wonders how much my enjoyment of this third installment of the Oceans series is influenced by the fact that the second, Ocean's Twelve, had been a disappointment to most of those who loved Ocean's Eleven.  Perhaps it does benefit, because if this were the second film, all of us critics who are lavishing positive comments would have been jeering at it for merely being a remake of its predecessor.  Certainly, it's not a must-see movie, as it isn't much more than a regurgitation of the first film, with a new bad guy casino owner to snatch the goods from, employing most of the same characters and their strengths in order to exact the same outcome. 

So long as you don't mind that you're essentially just watching one more go around just for fun, you'll likely be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this sumptuously presented dessert film.  Like a James Bond flick, it's little more than a genre excursion, as the films cover the same thematic and artistic ground every time out, but it's also wicked cool and dripping with style. It may not tread much new ground, but it's gorgeous, witty and irreverent, containing all of the things you enjoyed about the Ocean's Eleven (except the freshness) and none of what bogged down the momentum of its sequel.

In this installment, an unscrupulous casino magnate named Willy Bank (Pacino, 88 Minutes) puts the squeeze on Reuben (Gould, American History X), leaving him with almost nothing, and inducing a stroke that leaves him hospitalized.  The old crew are drawn back together in order to get revenge, and also to make a sizable fortune, by ruining Bank's chances at opening another hugely popular hotel casino in Las Vegas, while snatching his fortune from under his nose.  In order to hatch their plan, the casino employees must be paid off, games must be rigged, and cutting edge security systems must be bypassed.  There are even some strange bedfellows, including rival casino owner Terry Benedict (Garcia, Smokin' Aces), who proves the adage, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", by joining the Ocean team to take Bank down.

The few changes that are made prove to be to the film's benefit.  Adding Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin (She Hate Me, Someone Like You) to the adversary mix is a smart move, with Pacino delivering all of the sly intelligence and smoldering intensity he has rarely shown in recent years, while 53-year-old (and looking better than ever) Barkin provides the film a smart and sexy factor that makes up for the fact that Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are given a pass on reprising their roles ("It's not their fight" is the explanation by Danny for the women staying home).  David Paymer (Warm Springs, In Good Company) has a hilarious supporting character, the V.U.P. (very unimportant person), the hotel inspector who is treated like garbage by Ocean and his cohorts as another way to screw Bank out of his vaunted Five Diamond award.

There are certain movies out there that are fun because the people behind them look like they are having fun making it.  The Oceans series certainly qualifies as belonging to that group of movies.  We don't really want to get to know them, see them get married or have kids.  We want to see them do what they do best, and enjoy doing it all the while -- steal millions from right under the nose of someone who doesn't deserve the fortune he has.  The interplay among all of the charismatic, loose cast members is solid, and with Clooney (Syriana, Intolerable Cruelty), Pitt (Babel, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Damon (The Good Shepherd, The Departed) at the forefront, the subtle looks and nods they give to one another keeps us riveted to see just what tricks they are pulling, even if there is nothing ostensibly underhanded going on onscreen.

Ocean's Thirteen is a needless sequel, and it certainly isn't one that many people have been clamoring for, but it does what it's supposed to do, and does it quite well.  Between Soderbergh's (Solaris, Traffic) stellar 1960s cinema eye (he also serves as the cinematographer, using his pseudonym of Peter Andrews -- it is truly a gorgeous film), David Holmes' (Analyze That, Out of Sight) vibrant and catchy scoring, and a group of comical actors we thoroughly enjoy watching, it's a fun time for those who enjoy the characters.  If you've seen the first film and have had your fill, you can skip this one, as it doesn't add much to the saga.  You don't really need to see the second film; though a couple of that Oceans Twelve's characters re-emerge here, they aren't significant enough that the uninitiated will be confused as to who they are and what they are doing.  It's a dessert film for those who don't mind the taste of familiar decadent pleasures.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo