Ocean's Thirteen

June, 2007, Comedy

Directed by:Steven Soderbergh

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

In an era when Hollywood seems capable of grinding out an infinite number of highly profitable sequels, “pre-quels” and spin-offs, (despite 6 different actors in the leading role, the 45 year- old James Bond series is currently shooting number 22) it’s not hard to understand why George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon continue their expropriation of this 47 year-old heist flick which originally featured Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack. The wonder lies in director Steven Soderbergh’s ability to breathe new life into such a narrowly defined vehicle. While not nearly as much fun as Ocean’s Eleven, his original re-make, 13 floats well above its immediate predecessor, borne aloft by the director’s breezy style and the lighthearted charm of its superstar cast. It doesn’t enlighten, but it certainly entertains. 

Clooney and Pitt reprise their roles as Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, laid-back confidence men cut from the same bolt of felonious cloth as Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting. When Ruben Lishkof, (Elliott Gould) the larcenous Dutch Uncle of Ocean’s crew, is squeezed out of his interest in a new Las Vegas casino by vile hotelier/entrepreneur Willie Bank, (Al Pacino) Danny, Rusty and their crew go to work on a plan of revenge so elaborate only a director with Soderbergh’s vivid imagination and story-telling gifts could present it with sufficient clarity to keep the audience guessing about what comes next. But he does so, making the first half of this movie nearly as entertaining as the original. 

Working with a chutzpah worthy of P.T. Barnum, Soderbergh bathes his shots of America’s gambling capital and its emporiums of chance in colors of such florid hue they mock the city’s glamorous pretensions. His highly-recognizable cast reprises the scams they introduced in their previous outings while Pacino gets the chance to tone down his penchant for scenery-chewing as he creates the screen version of a cross between Steve Winn & Donald Trump. As his sycophantic assistant, Ellen Barkin appears in outfits constructed of something approximating bright red Saran warp; can this luscious-looking actress, (recently divorced from Revlon chairman Ron Perelman) actually be 53 years old?  

Delivering communal banter in at least 3 different languages, Clooney exudes sophistication and Pitt a funky, shaggy-dog attitude, both of which nicely compliment Damon, who does schlemiel with the panache of a stand-up comic. (His wordless effort to drink champagne from a flute while disguised with an enlarged proboscis is worthy of Harold Lloyd). Their interactions form the best part of the film, which unfortunately goes limp in the final reel as the storyline’s elaborate machinations finally come together to financially torpedo Pacino’s character. Despite this less-than-thrilling denouement, Cooney delivers a slick in-joke to Pitt as the final credits start to roll…

The verdict? It’s summer, a time for beach-books, cotton candy and frivolous enjoyments; don’t expect more from this slick foolishness than a demonstration of how much talent it takes to make confection look so effortless.   

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