Analog players in a digital world.

The latest movie in this summer of the sequel is a departure from the first three heavyweights of Spider-man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates 3. Aimed more at adults than adolescents, Ocean’s Thirteen is the clean-up hitter this summer. In baseball, a clean-up hitter usually has power. Ocean’s Thirteen has star power, perhaps more than any other release this summer, and the movie wields its weapons well. (Audio review here.)

While Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are not back for this installment, all the men of Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve do reprise their roles. George Clooney and Brad Pitt head up the gang of thieves, aided by Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and the rest of the crew that moviegoers have come to know over the last six years. The biggest addition to the cast is a name bigger than all of them, and his character is the catalyst for the caper that drives the entire film. The man is Al Pacino, playing a flashy casino owner who incurs the gang’s wrath by betraying Elliott Gould’s Reuben Tishkoff, setting the stage for the rest of the revenge movie.

The first film was a modern classic that thrived on the energy of Las Vegas and the cool confidence of Clooney and Pitt. Twelve lost much of those factors by bouncing around Europe and putting the band of thieves on the run. Thirteen returns to the franchise’s successful roots, taking place predominantly in the colorful world of Sin City and also placing the heroes in control most of the time.

In restoring those two key elements, Ocean’s Thirteen recaptures the spirit of the original. The dialogue isn’t as crisp or smart, but it’s close, and elements of the past glory are present. Things like con-man lingo and everyone bilingually communicating with The Amazing Yen provide well-done unexplained humor. Writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who penned quality guy flicks like Rounders and Knockaround Guys) do overuse the borrowed elements, as though they decided to repeat the good parts of the original’s script as often as possible, and the resulting jokes wear a bit thin over the course of the movie.

Returning to Vegas is a wise choice that simplifies the plot. Though staples of heist movies, like double-crosses and sleight of hand, are present, the story is largely straight forward. You know what the guys are going to do; you’re just watching to see how the crew overcomes the various inevitable obstacles. This makes it slightly less entertaining, but also makes for a very comfortable viewing experience, despite the required suspension of disbelief. The cinematography of Steven Soderbergh (under the pseudonym Peter Andrews) helps too; the pictures and transitions are not to the impressive level of Eleven, but they have their moments, as do the quirky uses of titles and graphics.

As is the case in many sequels, the cast slides effortlessly back into their roles. Clooney and Pitt are smooth; Damon is trying to prove himself; Bernie Mac is a fast-talker, etc. As the new guy, Pacino effectively joins the fray with a surprisingly underplayed part. He’s not the big, bold, brash near-caricature that he has morphed into through movies like Scent of a Woman and The Devil’s Advocate. He still looks the over-the-top part with his deep tan and vibrant suits, but he is more kniving than bombastic, which is a very appropriate choice for the movie.

Ocean’s Thirteen is the cinematic version of a lazy river ride at a water park. You hop in your inner tube and cruise around the lengthy pool, admiring the view, chatting with friends, and generally enjoying the laid-back experience. Unlike many of this summer’s blockbusters, it does not bombard you with loud effects or action scenes. It won’t shock and awe you by pulling wool over your eyes with a mind-blowing twist. Instead, gentle turns and reveals are sprinkled throughout, providing an enjoyable two hours spent with familiar and entertaining characters.

Bottom Line: A good summer diversion that returns to the roots of the series. Not as good as the first, but better than the second. 7 of 10.

1 comment:

B. D. Mooneyham said...

*slight spoilers*

I felt like it took a while to really get into its flow and click along similar lines as the first one. The first 20 or 30 minutes, they're just sorta going through the motions, and there's not much humor or anything exciting. It eventually gets fun though.