Published Jun 08, 2007Its not difficult to discern why the first in the Oceans trilogy, Oceans 11 (a remake of the Rat pack film from 1960), worked so perfectly: it was fun, light-hearted, never moved at anything less than a brisk pace and featured a charismatic cast of heavy hitters (Pitt, Clooney, Damon, Cheadle, Garcia, Roberts, etc.) that clearly were having a ball. Never mind the plot lapses (where exactly did all those flyers come from they subbed for the money?) or the (un)reality of the elaborate swindle the gang perpetrated, it delivered on its promise: entertainment.
Its sequel, Oceans 12, didnt fare as well critically, mainly because shoehorning the characters into a script written for a different film (and taking them out of Vegas) didnt do them (or the audience) any favours. However, watching that cast go about their exceedingly elaborate (confusing?) heist business never got boring. And the complicated reveal of how it was all done at the end (also a staple of 11), while straining credulity, certainly was impressive, which brings us to Oceans 13.
Reuben (Elliott Gould), the father-like figure to Oceans, um, however many are in this one, gets into bed setting up an extravagant Vegas hotel with Willie Bank (Al Pacino, "hooah!!!) despite the objections of Danny Ocean (George Clooney). When the inevitable screw-job comes, Reuben is left in critical condition after a heart attack. Cue the revenge on their friends behalf, but instead of simply offing Bank, a suggestion the group entertainingly bandies about briefly, they choose to give him a chance to make good. After all, he did shake Sinatras hand. However, when Bank refuses, the group begin Plan B: making sure that on opening night, the house loses and everyone else wins.
Of course, at this point we know that Ocean and company are going to pull it off, as surely as we know that theyre going to have a grand ol time doing it. And, true to form, the film has this end in sight from the beginning, driving towards it despite a few moments where it lags, while doing away, mostly, with the "theyll never pull it off red herrings and elaborate reveals of its predecessors.
Sure, for 13, the constraints of reality are strained like never before. For example: need a giant digging machine to simulate an earthquake? No problem! Broke that and need another? Okay. Need to infiltrate the factory where the dice are made? Infiltrated! Need to outwit a super-smart A.I. security system? Use a magnet! Need to rig every game in a casino to pay-out all at once? The outcome is never in doubt. However, we dont watch this series for reality, we watch for the sizzle, for the charm, for the funny, for the Hollywood heavyweights having a blast. And they do, even if some are missing the absences of Dannys wife Tess (Julia Roberts) and Rustys girlfriend from 12 (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are explained away early in the film.
Its obvious that Soderbergh and company have streamlined 13 after the bloating of 12 in an attempt to recapture the formula and success of the first, which, they mostly accomplish. In the summer of three-quels, the ones so far (Shrek, Pirates, Spider-man) havent delivered near what they should have, entertainment-wise. And while Oceans 13 doesnt have that "out of nowhere quality or the effortless charm of the first, fans disappointed with 12 will be back in line to place their money on 13. (Warner)