Tuesday, June 19, 2007

OCEAN'S THIRTEEN Back With A Vengeance!

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 Ruben out of the deal so 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 them are realistic, but many lie in the realm of fantasy. Still, these movies are a 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 that 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 the dice are 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 these kind of shows.

However, even at 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.


Angela/SciFiChick said...

There are so many good movies opening this summer that I was planning to wait till DVD for this one. Glad to know I made a good decision!

Mel Odom said...

I enjoyed it, but not enough to pay to watch it AND add it to the home collection. Still, it was a date with my wife and you just can't go wrong there. :)