Heist films like this have a pretty well established formula, a group of thieves plan an elaborate robbery then execute the plan while improvising solutions to everything that goes wrong. Ocean’s Eleven utilized this formula masterfully, Ocean’s Twelve tried to depart from the formula and it didn’t work, now Ocean’s Thirteen returns to this formula and delivers again. Gore Verbinski should start taking notes, this is how empty entertainment should be. Ocean’s Thirteen is the worthy sequel that Ocean’s Twelve wasn’t.
Ocean’s Thirteen is actually better than Ocean’s Eleven in that the cast by now has a more developed chemistry. The whole gang is back; George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Shaobo Qin, Carl Reiner, and Eddie Jemison are all back reprising their roles from the original Oceans Eleven. Andy Garcia, the victim of the first film’s heist, is also back helping Ocean’s gang for his own reason. Eddie Izzard is also back reprising his role from Ocean’s Twelve. The one major star from the original films that has declined to return is Julia Roberts, her loss. New to the cast is Al Pacino, who has stepped into Andy Garcia’s shoes as the violent casino owner who will soon be robbed. Also new is Ellen Barkin, who plays his assistant.
Pacino plays Willie Bank, an old school casino owner with possible ties to the mafia. Bank is opening a new top of the line casino on the Las Vegas strip called The Bank. To open this casino Bank got financing from Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) who was part of the original Ocean’s eleven. Bank then rips Reuben off and drives him to have a near fatal stroke. Ocean’s gang reassembles and decides to come up with a plan for revenge. Their plan is to sabotage the opening day festivities of Bank’s new casino; they make an important critic’s stay a living hell, they rig the games to all pay off at once, and they plan to steal a number of diamonds from Bank’s vault (no pun intended).
The one thing Ocean’s Twelve improved on over Oceans Eleven is the chemistry between the cast members. The gang of thieves had gone from being unrelated strangers to being a band of friends who work together to accomplish jobs; the cast interacted a lot better the lines really flowed off the script. The new film in the franchise adds this improved chemistry to a superior script more worthy of the improved cast interactions. You don’t really have to have seen Ocean’s Twelve to enjoy Ocean’s Thirteen, although you will need a familiarity with Eleven.
The scheme is as complicated as ever, but you don’t really need to take notes to understand it, like the works of Tarentino the storytelling is so good that the fact that what you’re watching is complicated seems incidental. Also like its predecessors, the heist isn’t overly believable, at times your ability to suspend disbelief will be stretched to its limits. However if you could get past the holographic Fabergé egg in Ocean’s Twelve you should be fine here.
Also interesting is that now more then before Steven Soderbergh is reveling in retro. Thematically the film harkens back to retro Las Vegas. Characters discuss how much Sin City has changed. Bank’s new casino seems to be channeling old Las Vegas, Bank himself behaves like an old school casino owner, he’s willing to kill and maim anyone who tries to cross him, a trait that makes his inevitable defeat all the more sweet.
But it isn’t retro Vegas that rules here, its retro Hollywood. This movie could easily have been made in the mid sixties. It’s a film that celebrates celebrity, the film makes you appreciate what star power can accomplish. Also present are character actors like Don Cheadle who briefly steals the show while imitating a James Brown like Motorcycle stuntman.
The film is amazingly entertaining, there’s significantly more fun to be had here than in Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End a film with at least fifty times the special effects budget. One wonder if the fun had at Ocean’s Thirteen is the result of lowered expectations after a month of disappointing third installments. Previous movies this summer have done everything they could to entertain by simply throwing as much CGI on the screen as money could buy. Ocean’s Thirteen proves that the old school of Hollywood entertainment is alive and well.
Many are speculating as to whether this sequel will lead to an Ocean’s Fourteen. Many of the cast and crew have said this will be the last film in the franchise. However the ending is just as open for a sequel as the last two film’s, and that’s no a bad thing. I’d welcom a fourth film in the series sometime in the future. I’ve had a lot of fun with this band of thieves and I don’t think the series has really run out of steam.
***1/2 out of four