Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Movie Review: "Ocean's Thirteen"

Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Official Web site

It’s good to be back in Las Vegas.

At least that’s what the cast and crew (and subsequently, the audience) should be saying about “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the caper film franchise starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company.

After a very entertaining stint in Vegas in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” its 2004 sequel turned off some critics and fans with its European sojourn and overly self-pleased tone. But now the gang is back in Sin City with a movie that, while not as fun and fresh as the first film, still steps lively and is quite enjoyable to watch.

The motivation for Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his crew this time around is pure revenge, as compatriot Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) finds himself ruthlessly squeezed out of his co-ownership in a dazzling new hotel/casino on the Vegas Strip. He suffers a heart attack due to the betrayal by partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino, in good villainous form here) and is hospitalized. Ocean sees the move by Bank as an affront to his entire gang, and after getting rebuffed by the businessman in a face-to-face meeting, he sets out to administer some payback.

Of course, Ocean’s crew is much too smart to just get back at someone through violence, so they set in motion a plan to hit Bank where it will really hurt him – in the pocketbook and his reputation. Their primary focus is to take out the state-of-the-art security system installed at The Bank (named after, well, you get it), in an attempt to allow the casino players to have the advantage over the house, for once. This strategy is aided by the fact that the team has found a way to rig a number of the casino games via loaded dice, card shuffling machines and more.

The ingenious, albeit rather farfetched plan, is laid out in fast-talking scenes filled with intricate detail that challenges audiences to keep up. Whether it’s Ocean and his right-hand man, Rusty Ryan (Pitt) discussing the seemingly impregnable security system with an associate (Eddie Izzard) or the plan to destroy Bank’s string of coveted Five Diamond Awards for his hotel, the revenge plot is presented in tightly edited sequences. It certainly helps that the script is crafted by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, a pair certainly familiar with the world of gambling, having written “Rounders,” a 1998 movie also starring Damon.

Much like the first two films, “Ocean’s Thirteen” has style to spare and is beautifully shot and directed by Steven Soderbergh (who also serves here as cinematographer under the name “Peter Andrews”). If anything, the film’s maybe a bit too cool for its own good, as there’s little suspense or sense of danger in the gang’s plan. You won’t necessarily know how they’re going to be able to pull it off every step of the way – you just know that they will.

So while a little edginess to the proceedings might have made it work a bit better, when you’re in the hands of skilled pros like this star-studded cast (which also includes Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac and Ellen Barkin), it gets a little hard to complain much. For the pure bang for your entertainment buck, hanging with these guys for a couple of hours hardly seems like a gamble at all.

Grade: B+
(Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality.)

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