The “Ocean’s” movies are getting sillier and sillier, with plots that rely increasingly on impossible technology and stunning coincidences to function. Yet in “Ocean’s Thirteen,” it’s more apparent than ever that Soderbergh, Clooney, and company don’t care — and that sense of gleeful nonchalance is contagious. Why, I didn’t care about anything while watching “Ocean’s Thirteen,” least of all “Ocean’s Thirteen”!
“Ocean’s Twelve” made the mistakes of setting too much of the action outside of Las Vegas, and of giving several of its actors nothing to do. Both problems are alleviated this time around. Ninety-five percent of the film takes place in Vegas, and despite the addition of two more major characters, everybody takes center stage at some point. The banter is still cool and snappy, the twists and double-crosses plentiful, the tone playful.
The caper: Reuben (Elliott Gould) has suffered a near-fatal heart attack after being swindled for millions by the nefarious Willie Bank (Al Pacino), whose new casino will be the swankiest, most opulent thing in all of Las Vegas. By way of payback, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the gang decide to ruin Bank financially — not by stealing his money, but by rigging all the games in his casino on opening night so that the house loses and all the players go home rich.
A swell idea! Impossible, sure, but who cares! (It’s amusing in these films to hear the characters readily embrace some ideas while dismissing others as impossible, when in fact ALL of them are impossible.) Many details must fall into place for it to work, and every man must play his part. Linus (Matt Damon), still anxious to prove himself useful, dons a disguise and woos Bank’s right-hand gal, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin). Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) infiltrates the dice-making factory in Mexico and inadvertently causes labor unrest. Yen (Shaobo Qin) dodges high-speed elevators while moving through the hotel’s elevator shaft. Rusty (Brad Pitt) has to dress like a hippie. And so on!
All the regulars except for Julia Roberts are on hand, plus Eddie Izzard as a technical adviser on loan from England, Julian Sands as a high-tech-security expert, David Paymer as a hapless hotel critic, and Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Oborne) as an FBI agent. Andy Garcia is back as another casino owner, and — “Godfather Part III” reunion alert! — he does get a scene with Al Pacino, who thankfully underplays his role, rather than being all big and crazy like he’s been in recent years. Once again, part of the fun is seeing so many celebrities pinballing off one another in the same movie.
Directed, as before, by Steven Soderbergh, who again serves as his own cinematographer, the film maintains the retro-glitz style of the previous installments. One of the first things we see is Brad Pitt walking against an impossibly blue night sky, and the whole film is full of those vibrant, catchy colors. David Holmes’ Rat-Pack-jazzy musical score once again adds to the effect.
And, once again, “Ocean’s Thirteen” is a film you want to love more than you do. The movie stars are having as much fun as ever, clearly enjoying every moment of their onscreen camaraderie (scripted by Brian Koppelman and David Levien), and that goes a long way toward making an audience have fun, too. But maybe it is a little smug of these famous actors to get together and horse around and expect the result to be entertaining to watch. But then again, maybe that would be a good point if they weren’t usually right. All I know is, these movies always make me want to go out and plan a heist, just for the fun of it. They make it look so easy!
B (2 hrs., 2 min.; )