Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen

Ocean’s Thirteen brings back a star-studded cast headed by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. They are once more backed by Elliott Gould, Don Cheadle, Shabao Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, and Carl Reiner in great support roles.

As always, Danny Ocean (Clooney) co-leads with Rusty Ryan (Pitt) in a deadly, dangerous, and twisting con scheme. In the previous two movies, Ocean, Ryan, and the others have always been motivated by personal desires as well as financial ones. This time it’s more personal. Reuben (Gould) has been beaten out of his fortune by Willie Bank (Al Pacino), who is planning to open the most impressive casino in Las Vegas.

Willie Bank (And don’t you just love the subtle name? Will he bank?) has already been a successful casino owner/operator. All of his casinos before have earned the “Five Diamonds Award” of excellence. Bank expects no less this time. And he shut Reuben out of the deal so that the glamour – not to mention the profit – can all be his.

Ocean and Rusty gather with the rest of the crew to pay their respects to Reuben and figure out what they are supposed to do to get their friend’s fortune back. Reuben appears to have lost the will to live. As an act of courtesy, Ocean offers Bank a 'Billy Martin' — a chance to redeem himself on his own and give the money back to Reuben. Of course if Bank had accepted the proposition the movie would have been much shorter.

So Ocean and his team go to work. The con to get Reuben’s money back is complicated and involves a lot of details. Some of it is realistic, but much of it lies in the realm of fantasy. Still, these movies are confection and are to be enjoyed just on their own.

And they are probably also an excuse for the high-powered stars to get together and play. In Ocean’s Eleven the mix was exactly right. The stars matched the story, and each of those stars got the chance to be an absolute scene-stealer. The franchise stumbled badly in Ocean’s Twelve because the movie seemed to lack a central focus. Some viewers even stated that the film had no plot at all.

The plot in the latest film is apparent from the earliest scenes, but it seems like Clooney, Pitt, and the others are merely going through the paces, hitting their marks and delivering lines of dialogue that are often funny, but too often wide of the mark. The story isn’t as tight as the first one.

In order to explain the premise of the con to the audience, Ocean and Ryan have to describe what they’ve got in place to a new con man who specializes in computer technology. He supposedly is the best at figuring out cybernetic systems. Bank’s new casino is protected by an artificial intelligence, which seems weird because the military evidently doesn’t have those yet. And the fact that it’s an artificial intelligence is never exploited in the film. It’s just one of those near-science fiction explanations to make the job supposedly harder.

Part of the plan involves manufacturing dice made of a special polymer. One of the team (Affleck) goes undercover at the Mexican manufacturing plant where they’re made to get the special polymer into the mix. While he’s there, he ends up taking part in a mini-revolution of blue collar workers against white collar administration. This is truly one of the funnier bits in the film, but it feels a little out of place. It’s a diversion that doesn’t fit in with the Las Vegas scene that’s going on. And even the special dice are not showcased that much later in the film.

Moving the franchise back to Las Vegas seems to be a good idea, though. There’s something about this city that just makes magic for this kind of story. However, even at a 1:53 running time, the movie feels a little long and sags some in the middle. Clooney and Pitt break up those sections with glimpses into their personal lives that are fun, but even those become noticeable as props to keep the plot flowing.

I went to see the movie in the theater with my wife because that was where we’d seen the other two. We wanted to see this one there. It was a big improvement over the second movie, but it still didn’t match expectations fostered by the first movie. If you haven’t seen Ocean’s Thirteen yet, I’d suggest waiting for it on DVD and pick it up to complete your collection or to rent just to watch.

Mel Odom is the author of over 100 novels. Winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award for 2002 and runner-up for the Christy in 2005, he’s written in several genres, including tie-in novels for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Without A Trace, and novelizations of Blade, XXX, and Tomb Raider. Thankfully, he’s learned to use his ADHD for good instead of evil.

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Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen

The Ocean's series are perfect summer movies. Say what you will about the second (I didn't care for it in the theater, but it has grown on me significantly via cable viewings), but all three do exactly what they are intended to do and more: they are mindless popcorn flicks that entertain without insulting your intelligence.

Sure, there are unbelievable scams here and there, but the sheer volume of characters (and their respective talents) make most of it believable. Also, with a strong, confident director, and capable writers, you never feel like you're being left out to dry.

Without saying too much (the trailer has said plenty already), the scam this time involves getting revenge on another casino owner, this time played by Al Pacino, who brings a lot to the acting table, and thankfully spares us the now-clichéd "Hoo-ah!" speech that he's become known for ever since Scent of a Woman (a rejuvenated Ellen Barkin is also on board, as Pacino's right-hand woman).

Notably (and thankfully, I think) absent are Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, as their characters are apparently stuck in Europe or something, while the whole gang Ocean's 13 posterends up back in Vegas. More so than in the first, the return to and of Vegas is a running theme, and it adds a deeper meaning to the film that was absent previously.

Along the way, many loose ends are tied up, many old friends show up, new characters introduced (most notably the nebbishy David Paymer as a hotel reviewer, as well as a Super Dave Osborne appearance), some great cameos, a number of in-jokes, and a whole lot of disguises. Among the most impressive scams Soberberg pulls off is the inclusion of a fabricated grand hotel right smack dab in the middle of the strip – and it's not like it's just one CGI shot; there are numerous shots from various angles.
Super Dave Osborne
All that said, the best and most important things I can say about Ocean's Thirteen are that a) I had a smile on my face the entire time (excluding the first 15 minutes, when a gaggle of teenage comedians sitting in front of us decided to use the theater as an improv class, to poor results), and b) it made me want to get on the next plane to Las Vegas. Perhaps Clooney and the gang should be getting residuals from the Bellagio. Talk about free advertising.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"It's in the hole!"
"It's in the hole!" (**** out of *****)

* Oh, and by the way: I was wondeing the other day who the "13th" person was that would make the title complete. Though they never reference it in the movie, it's safe to say that it's Eddie Izzard – his role gets a bit bigger here, and more than just being a "vendor" as he was before, he actually takes an active role in the scam. So that's that.

* Fun fact time: Super Dave Osborne aka Bob Einstein is Albert Brooks' brother. Yes, Albert Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein.

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Fletch writes (hopefully) humorous and informative movie reviews and other pop culture commentary for Blog Cabins. He is also the inventor of the highly innovative and wildly effective Fletch Film Rating Scale.

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Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen

Well, the Las Vegas swindle crew is back in full force in this threequel. The name of the game is getting even. Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and the gang would have only one reason to pull off their most ambitious and riskiest casino heist and the reason is to defend one of their own.

The ruthless hotel and casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crossed Danny's friend and mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elloitt Gould) out of his money and his share of the new establishment, putting the distraught Reuben in a hospital bed in critical condition and suffering from depression.

Willy Bank made a mistake, because he may have taken down one of the original Ocean's eleven, but the others are left standing. They vowed to get even by taking down Willy and his new place called The Bank.

Their plan is twofold. First they will ruin him financially by turning the tables on the precept that the house always wins. All they have to do manipulate the dice that are being made in Mexico. Second is to simulate an earthquake to give them time to break Willy's computerized security system and steal his precious diamonds showcased under tight security. These diamonds are payment to Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), Danny's arch enemy. In this caper Danny and Terry work together because Willy is Terry's competition on the strip. Besides Danny needs Terry's money to pull off the heist and Willy's diamonds will be the repayment.

As the grand opening of The Bank begins, Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) is sent in to compromise Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin) who is Willy Bank's right-hand woman. Matt Damon and Ellen Barkin share a bit of onscreen chemistry. Barkin plays more than just a sexy middle-aged woman on screen, in fact hers is a quite funny and alluring character. Of course Al Pacino is a master of his craft no matter the genre. If you're looking for good gags, cool action, and witty dialogue this is the movie to watch. With supporting cast members Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Izzard, and the great veteran actor/comedian Carl Reiner, this is a fun-filled movie. In my opinion this is the best Ocean's episode out of the three films.

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Running time: 113 minutes
Release date: June 8, 2007
Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Crime/Gangster and Sequel
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Additional film reviews by Gerald Wright on Rotten Tomatoes, HDFEST, and Film Showcase.

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