Monday, July 16, 2007

Review: Ocean's Thirteen

The Skinny:
The sequel train keeps on chuggin'. The cast of Ocean's 11 + 2 more. Get it, 13…?

The Review:
It is virtually impossible to review or even watch a sequel without comparing it to the original(s). Such is the case with Ocean's Thirteen. Only this time, the failure of the previous movie, Ocean's Twelve, actually helps this one stay afloat.

Let me first start by saying I enjoyed Ocean's Eleven immensely. The plot was solid, the direction was slick and stylish, the ensemble cast worked great together – almost like nothing you have ever seen from a movie this big, and well, I am a sucker for anything Vegas related. It just worked on all levels – you could tell by watching it that the actors really enjoyed the process of making this movie as well as each others company while doing so. The notion of the first sequel confused me but I gave it a chance because the first one was so much fun. It disappointed by comparison, but a decent caper (who still says 'caper') movie nonetheless. Had it not been a sequel to such a cool movie, it would have been better but it wasn't, so it wasn't. No love lost though. Then the news of Thirteen comes along and I am less than interested. With the magic of the first was gone, it seemed like nothing more than one more trip back to the well for some fast cash.

This time around the group is back in Vegas. Reuben gets screwed over in a hotel deal by newcomer Willie Bank (Al Pacino), goes into shock and becomes bedridden. The rest of the clan is in it to win it for one last job (isn't that the premise for every heist movie – the infamous "one last job" job?). But the catch is they plan not to make money this time, just get revenge for their friend and ruin Bank in the process. Seems simple enough, but this is an Ocean's job so you know there will be spectacular tools and gadgets used, an outlandish setup, twists upon twists, and a smattering of funny dialogue. As far as expectation goes, you get what you pay for. The setup is unbelievable bordering on ridiculous. They plan to rig an entire casino to lose on everything (blackjack, craps, roulette, slots) for a certain period of time and create a "natural" disaster that sets into motion the possibility for everyone who just won to leave the casino with their winnings. As outrageous as it sounds, you are never once left wondering whether or not they are going to pull it off. It gets so bogged down with the twists and turns that you end up not really caring when it all doesn't come together or get explained in the end. You just kind of want it to finally end. Like putting a puzzle together and getting down to the last few pieces and just forcing them in because you want to be done whether they fit or not.

As far as characters go, there isn't much new brought to the table. Pacino reaches into his arsenal and produces his standard non-mobster bully character. He works and fits into the cast but again, nothing new. Ellin Barkin, as Bank's right hand is a fine looking cougar, but can't decide if she wants to be a tough ball buster or the comedic relief. The rest of the cast is back in the "look how much fun it looks like we're having" mode. There are 11 of them in principle, but some of them relegated to more minor roles. Since with every sequel they introduce another character to keep track of, it gets a bit heavy to give them all an equal share. But they still seem to be having fun regardless. Sometimes it works quite well and sometimes it feels forced. Like trying to rekindle a friendship with someone you used to have a blast with in high school that you just can't relate to anymore. Or like going to the bar all the time and thinking "This is so much fun. Wouldn't it be even better if I worked here?" then getting the job and finding out it's not as much fun when it's a matter of obligation. The first one was fun. The second one survived out of necessity. And this one? Well, think of it as those plans you make with people you don't usually hang out with on a random drunken night if they were actually carried out sober. It was probably a better idea in theory that in execution. With all that being said, I didn't dislike the movie. I was entertained. I just felt like I had been there before. And it's time to find a new place to hang out.

The Rub:
It's a flawed but entertaining conclusion to a franchise that has run its course. It was better than Twelve, not nearly as good as Eleven. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. If they even try to insult us by offering up Ocean's Fourteen, I'm out. Like anyone who has ever been to Vegas can attest, it's best to stop while you're still ahead – or at least even. And there's the rub.

*** of *****

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