Does "Ocean's Thirteen" Sink or Swim?
In the latest installment of Steven Soderbergh's high-rollin' jet set series, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounds up the boys for a third heist, after casino owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses one of the original eleven, Reuben (Elliot Gould).
Reuben gets royally screwed when he enters a partnership with Bank, a ruthless businessman who owns the Strip's newest hotel-casino, The Bank (clever, huh?). Danny and the boys set out to completely ruin Bank's cushy life by systematically rigging every casino game in the joint, forcing Pacino's Bank to rip his hair out from losing millions and millions of dollars on opening night.
By teaming up with their old adversary, Tony Benedict (Andy Garcia), Ocean's gang gets enough funding to buy an industrial tunneling drill. The idea here is so that Danny and the boys can stage a bogus earthquake and drill into the building's foundation, thus distracting Willie Bank and his staff long enough for the team to get the job done.
Benedict has his own motives, however, and wants a couple things in return for giving Ocean the 36 million dollars that bought them the drill. He wants the gang to steal Bank's collection of diamonds - the casino owner's most prized possession.
"Ocean's Thirteen" is all heist and Soderbergh pulls off a level of cinematic panache typically reserved for his other films like the Oscar-winning "Traffic." The acting is, as always, flawless. Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon have gotten so comfortable in their own skins, their natural star power shines through their two-dimensional characters. Pitt doesn't even have to act - he's just that damn cool.
The film is a definite improvement from 2004's "Ocean's Twelve," as Julia Roberts isn't playing herself, and there isn't an awkward cameo by bald-headed star Bruce Willis. Soderbergh pulls off the style and use of color that made "Eleven" and "Twelve" so eye-pleasing, but this time he delivers a plot worthy of the original.
The film's soundtrack is pure sex, and set with Soderbergh's visual elegance every sequence flows like Sinatra and sounds just as smooth. As if Clooney and Pitt weren't bad ass enough, give them a scene strutting down a hotel hallway with some Vegas pizzazz and you've got something special.
Clooney and Pitt's characters aren't as involved this time, they merely play second fiddle to Casey Affleck's Virgil and Don Cheadle's Basher. The smaller players steal the show this time around, with some crowd-pleasing cameos by Eddie Izzard's character Roman and Vincent Cassel returning as the Night Fox.
"Ocean's Thirteen" isn't perfect though. At points it drags out and feels a lot longer than it should. There's lots of exposition to wade through, an extremely complicated plan that you simply have to except as plausible. And though Andy Garcia is terrific (as always) as Terry Benedict, there just wasn't enough of him in the film for me. Pacino's villain character was a good show, but Bank comes no where near the nastiness of Garcia's Benedict.
All in all, "Ocean's Thirteen," is a fun time at the theaters. If you've enjoyed Soderbergh's previous two entries into the trilogy, do yourself a favor and see "Thirteen." If you're lucky, maybe you'll get a good seat in a packed house - and not have to sit on the second row, staring up at the screen praying you might see more of Ellen Barkin than the rest of the audience.