Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

Lazerbug stole the red poster from me.

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Ellen Barkin, Al Pacino, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

The general rule of thumb when it comes to sequels is “the same but more”. The result being movies that feel familiar, but suffer from bloat. Characters that previously fit in as smaller supporting characters get pushed more into the movie, new characters push the original ones for screen time, and issues the original movie seemingly resolved get rehashed. In Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to the superb Ocean’s Eleven, they got the “more” part of the equation, straining under the pressure of trying to find increased roles for all of the original eleven members of Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) crew, plus newer characters, all with a series of complicated heists, but they didn’t quite deliver “the same”. For Ocean’s Thirteen, the third in the series, Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh take another crack at the standard sequel formula, delivering more of the same from the first movie, only more of it.

Unfortunately, that formula is what makes most sequels pale imitators of the original movies, and that’s the case here. Once again, the boys are back in Las Vegas to rip off a casino. This time, they’re after Willie Bank (Al Pacino), after he ripped off Reuben (Elliott Gould) while building his new casino, The Bank. The crew are looking to break The Bank, as it were, to avenge the damage done to Reuben, which left him in the hospital with a heart attack. Together, Danny, Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon), Basher (Don Cheadle), Frank (Bernie Mac), Virgil (Casey Affleck), Turk (Scott Caan), Saul (Carl Reiner), Yin (Shaobo Qin), and Livingston (Eddie Jemison) team up to rig the games so that the casino will lose massive amounts of money on its grand opening, receiving help along the way from old nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).

It was nice to see a return of the old school Vegas charm from the first movie, one of my all-time favourite movies and one of my all-time favourite vacation destinations. But, nothing about Ocean’s Thirteen felt fresh or inspired at all. At this stage of their careers, it seems that Clooney and Soderbergh (both serve as executive producers for the movie) do crowd-pleasers like the Ocean’s series to help fund their more personal projects. It’s a good way to go about it, but not when they turn out a movie as uninspired and disinterested as this one. All the pieces are there, from an interesting heist, to the chemistry between actors, exotic setting and opulence, and witty banter, they just don’t come together in a satisfying way.

It’s not particularly unsatisfying either. As summer blockbuster goes, it’s probably better than most, but that’s sort of damning it with faint praise. All in all, the movie is merely adequate, trading in on the star power of the principles, doing enough to move along the caper to its logical conclusion. It’s true, the original was carried quite a bit by the star power of Clooney and Pitt, but it didn’t completely rely on it either. This time, it feels like we’re invited to the cast’s third reunion, where it’s fun to see them together again, but most of our time is spent remembering the good old days.

I think the biggest reason why I didn’t really get into the new movie is that it followed the same formula as the first two: the crew is presented with a seemingly impossible objective, run into a series of problems along the way, making victory seem all the more improbable as the movie progresses. It worked really well in the first movie in developing enough suspense to invest in the caper, with the movie eventually revealing that it was conning us as much as the crew was conning Benedict. They try the same trick this time out, but I never believed the job was in any danger of failing. Instead, it felt like they were just going through the motions of tenuous success, and I wasn’t that invested as a result.

I’m hoping with this movie, the principles involved feel like they’ve gotten all they need out of the series and will let Ocean’s Thirteen be it. They haven’t quite worn out their welcome, delivering an adequate piece of fluff entertainment, but haven’t given much reason for them to keep coming back either.


Related Reviews:
Confidence (2003)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

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