After learning that casino owner Willy Bank (a super-tanned Al Pacino) has double-crossed one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) decide to reunite Ocean's crew, Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), Yen (Shaobo Qin), Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), and the Malloy brothers, Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Caan) to bring Willy Bank down. Acting out of a combination of altruism toward Tishkoff and revenge toward the Willy Bank, Ocean sets an intricate plan into play to derail the new casino's grand opening.
To get past the high-tech, computerized security system, Ocean hires Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard), a computer expert with a $100,00/day fee. Ocean learns that Bank's security systems have been set up by one of Roman's old classmates and rivals, Greco Montgomery (Julian Sands). When Ocean's scheme runs short on funds, he's forced to contact his old nemesis and romantic rival, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), for help. Ever the amoral businessman, Benedict sets several conditions on his participation, including the theft of a quarter of a billion's worth of diamonds from Bank's fortified office and double his investment. To get close to the diamonds, Ocean sends the awkward, shy Linus to romance Bank's right-hand woman, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin).
With a heist story less elaborate than Ocean's Eleven but far more emotionally satisfying than Ocean's Twelve (the altruistic motives help), Ocean's Thirteen isn't always as suspenseful or engaging as it could have been, especially during the second half, as new, increasingly implausible complications and reversals are introduced to derail the heist and make the characters (and moviegoers) sweat as they try to workaround the obligatory plot turns. Well, everyone in the cast breaks a sweat except Danny Ocean/George Clooney and Rusty Ryan/Brad Pitt. They don't sweat at all. Ocean and Ryan, and by extension Clooney and Pitt, are the epitome of coolness, of grace under pressure, perfectly attired in high-end designer clothes and flawlessly styled hair.
Ocean's Thirteen, though, isn't about an elaborately executed heist, itís about the stars that appear in practically every scene, this time minus romantic entanglements, pairing off (platonically, of course) and exchanging timely quips and in-jokes about their personal lives (a joke is made about Oceanís weight and another is made about Ryanís need to settle down and become a father) and pop culture references while looking as unstressed as humanely possible. If, as has been said, men want to be George Clooney (or Brad Pitt, take your choice) and women simply want him (or Brad Pitt, if you prefer), then Ocean's Thirteen with its light on substance, heavy on style approach, proves that point repeatedly and, it must be added, unpleasantly.
As watchable as Clooney, Pitt, and the rest of the supporting cast are (and letís face it, they are), Ocean's Thirteen wouldn't be as engrossing without Soderbergh's casually skilled direction. Ocean's Thirteen's visuals, everything from production design, cinematography, costuming, and camera movement and framing, are all about providing moviegoers with a steady stream of superficial pleasures. If that wasn't enough, Ocean's Thirteen's light, airy visuals are complemented by music producer and composer David Holmes' sixties-influenced score that references the original Ocean's Eleven while reminding us that we're watching, once again, what Hollywood does best (and no, it's not political commentary or social critique), slickly produced, intellectual-lite entertainment. More often than not, that's exactly what we want (if not exactly need).
© Mel Valentin, 8th June, 2007
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