CAPSULE: Danny Ocean is back and masterminding literally dozens of scams to help a friend who has lost his casino to a double-crossing partner. The script is fun and breezy and not meant to be taken very seriously. The film is full of little "aha!" moments as pieces of the scam come together. The whole scheme would probably never work in real life, but this isn't real life by a long stretch. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
The pleasure of a heist film like this, much like that of the old "Mission Impossible" television program, is in seeing an impossible task broken down into a myriad of pieces, all seemingly unlikely, and to see each accomplished. This is not so much a single story but a dramatization of many little scams that fit into a master plan. That is probably how the film has to be done. The title scheme requires that there have to be thirteen conspirators. There are a lot of under-handed sub-tasks and so the scriptwriters could just apportion them out to the various members of the team so everybody gets to do something. If they had wanted to roll it back to OCEAN'S EIGHT or SEVEN it probably would have worked as well. Personally, I thought that the Clooney OCEAN'S ELEVEN was a cop-out on the ambitious Sinatra version in which the five major casinos--the Sahara, the Flamingo, the Riviera, the Sands, and the Desert Inn--were all robbed at the same time on New Year's Eve. However, OCEAN'S THIRTEEN is not a remake of anything so has no responsibilities to any film but itself. It is just a sequel and probably one that improves on the original (if a remake can be called the original). It has a breezy but still engaging story.
The story centers around revenge on the heavy, Willie Bank (played by an Al Pacino who somehow just does not look like a Willie). Bank double-crosses his business partner Reuben Tishkoff (Eliot Gould). He essentially steals Tishkoff's casino and renames it after himself. Tishkoff was one of the great lions of the old Vegas, a mythical figure and one who did lots of favors for lots of people. And many of those people think if him like a favorite uncle. Now the double-cross by Bank has left Tishkoff with nothing to show for his old position but a coronary and a few remaining friends. But one of the friends is, of course, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), the affable crook who leads a gang of crooks, all loyal to Ocean and to Tishkoff. Ocean hatches a plot to have hundreds of unsuspecting bystanders playing different games all win fabulous in the same three minutes of time.
Bank's Girl Friday, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), runs the new Bank Casino for Bank and she does much of the dirty work like firing servers who have gained a little weight. Ocean may be a crook, but the audience knows who to side with. From the beginning we know that Bank and Sponder are both going down, but the question is how will Ocean arrange it all.
Steven Soderberg (who started out with the minimalist independent film SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE) has directed all three OCEAN'S 10+N films and is getting used to handling a huge cast in luxurious locations. It cannot be an easy task handling so many major actors.
In our fourth film this summer that is the third film of a series it is nice to see a film that does not spend most of its budget on CGI. The characters are not deep, but at least the film concentrates on characters rather than bits and bytes. I would give OCEAN'S THIRTEEN a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0496806/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2007 Mark R. Leeper