It started as a terrific remake of a dud 60s heist movie. Then came a dud sequel that's better off forgotten. Now Clooney and his gang redeem themselves with this far better second sequel that recalls what was so good about the first film — the style, the laughs, the camaraderie and the heist. And in a summer of so far so-so threequels (Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3), it's great to have a film that sets out to do nothing more than entertain ... and succeeds.
Ocean's Thirteen is, like Eleven was, at its heart a revenge flick. The tagline even says it — "Revenge is a funny thing" — so it must be true. And like that old saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold. Although in this case it's very, very cool, all Las Vegas glitz and designer suits for its leading men, headed by Clooney and Brad Pitt — who, incidentally, make a terrific team and really need to do some more films together, a la Hope and Crosby. In the meantime, though, Danny Ocean (Clooney) gets his team back together after his old buddy and mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) is conned by double-crossing casino king Willie Bank (Pacino), causing him to have a heart attack. Danny and Rusty (Pitt) plan to get Bank back by rigging all the games so that the opening night of his new Vegas hotel, The Bank, sees the house lose its shirt. In other words, they plan to ruin him.
So they pull the old crew together for another heist, this time back on familiar turf, good old Las Vegas (Ocean's Twelve really suffered from being outside its comfort zone). The plan sees them getting their own devices into the casino — a camera in Banks's office, along with special dice, card shufflers and poker machines — and making sure some of the gang are employed at the hotel itself. Now as is usual with these heist films, we're asked to suspend our disbelief somewhat; unfortunately, Ocean's Thirteen goes a little too far and asks us not only to suspend disbelief, but to send it to the Bahamas for a two-week vacation. As part of their exit strategy, the guys need to create an earth tremor (don't ask). And how do they do this? They buy, and ship to Las Vegas, one of the giant drills used to dig the Channel tunnel. A drill that weighs nearly 600 tonnes. Which they sneak into Las Vegas. And then sneak under Las Vegas. Without ANYONE noticing. Riiiiiiiiight.
Despite this monstrous lapse in logic (and there are several others, just not as gigantic) Ocean's Thirteen never fails to entertain. There's plenty of action, loads of laugh (along with the usual smartarse dialogue) and enough testosterone flying around to form a whole new Spartan army to kick some Persian butt. Now, if only they could teach Don Cheadle how to do an English accent properly...
SECOND OPINION | Neil Davey (4 stars): The original Rat Pack Ocean’s Eleven was the germ of a good idea made virtually unwatchable through the self indulgence of its cast. Then Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and Brad Pitt et al came along and remade it. While we're not the greatest fans of remakes, we have to give credit where credit's due and the new Ocean's Eleven was a classy, witty ensemble piece, a superbly constructed, light-hearted revenge thriller. And then, for Ocean’s Twelve, Soderbergh, Clooney and Pitt et all went all Sinatra on us and did the self indulgent thing. While it was never less than watchable, you got the feeling that the audience wasn’t having anywhere near as much fun as the cast.
Happily, Ocean’s Thirteen is a return to the charm — and all round pizzazz — of Ocean’s Eleven, a heist movie/revenge thriller where the audience and cast all get to enjoy themselves immensely.Plotwise, it’s all relatively simple which allows the cast to play around with the set-up of the crime itself and that, of course, is where the most pleasures lie. The elaborate detail, the verbal interplay, the surreal moments — the unexplained way everyone can understand Yen (Shaobo Qin) even though he only burbles occasionally in Cantonese, for example — and the sheer intricate brilliance of the plan. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief on occasion — just how did they get the Channel tunnel digging apparatus into Vegas without attracting attention? — but it’s easy to forgive when the rest of the project is so damn likeable.
Performances are laid back and easy, and even allow some of the supporting cast to shine that little bit more than usual. Scott Caan is particularly good, ditto Casey Affleck — who infiltrates a Mexican dice factory and get all Viva Zapata on the owner's arses. If there is a complaint, it’s that Ellen Barkin, as Bank’s right hand woman, is underused but it’s a relatively minor quibble. This is mainly about the boys — and the viewing public — having fun and that’s exactly what you get. That and the chance to forgive and forget Ocean’s Twelve, of course. Slick, satisfying, painfully cool and very funny, Ocean's Thirteen is top-notch glossy entertainment.