Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen

In a summer of threequels, Soderbergh regroups the team behind 'Ocean's Eleven', and 'Twelve' for another outing that could either follow the verve and entertainment of the first movie, or the selfindulgent folly of the second. In the event 'Ocean's Thirteen' falls somewhere in the middle.

In this outing for Danny Ocean's motley crew, Reuben (Eliot Gould), his mentor and friend, is double-crossed and left for dead by William Banks (Al Pacino), casino owner and all-out bad guy. Having tried the softly-softly method (and failed), the gang decide to exact revenge in the best way they know how, ruin Pacino's new casino (and steal some diamonds).

The movie is what it is. In such a free-wheeling piece of popcorn, there are few if any deep messages or grand insights. Even the Robin Hood aspect to the gang's plan (fix the games so that the customers win and get away with their winnings) is dampened by the fact that most of the casino's (pre-)opening night players are extremely wealthy to being with. A lighthearted subplot regarding Mexican workers in a dice factory does try to smuggle in some dark truths about America's poor neighbour (especially given the opulence on display everywhere else), but to belabour this would be a mistake. The movie strives to entertain with a clever, if unlikely, hodgepodge of a plot involving crooked gambling, a diamond robbery, doublecrossing and hotel reviewers. Any tension there might have been is diluted by the lack of any real teeth in Pacino's property shark and you sometimes long for Joe Pesci's character to stumble in from 'Casino' and break a few legs.

Clooney and Pitt are curiously subdued throughout. Perhaps this is generosity on their part to their fellow cast members or maybe they're just tired of doing the same schtick again. Whatever the reason, there is even more of an emphasis on ensemble playing here than in the film's predecessors. As a result it almost plays like an Altman piece with constant cutting between each strand of the complicated plot. With Altman though the ensemble would play as an ensemble; Soderbergh's strategy is to give each character their place in the sun for a few moments. Whether these little performances actually work is debatable. Cheadle's faux daredevil is irritating, but mercifully brief, while Caan and Affleck's double act is deadpan enough not to grate. Matt Damon is not so lucky and, engaging though he is, he's saddled with a one note character that hasn't much to do (and yes, the nose was a bad idea). As the villain of the piece, Pacino chews scenery like a rampant goat, and Barkin, his sveldt sidekick, in the first movie I've seen her in for a long while, matches him bite for bite. Depending on your mood these grandstand theatrics may entertain you. The mood is so light that the chances are they will.

So is 'Thirteen' unlucky for Soderbergh and company? The movie is glitzy and entertaining, but also very shallow, and slick though it is, the charm of the first film is sadly lacking. Nevertheless, like Vegas itself, as long as you don't stay in the place too long, you should have a good time, and 'Ocean's Thirteen' doesn't outstay its welcome.

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At 3:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that had you have known in advance, that you would be soon sitting and enjoying 'Zorn's Lemma', you would not have gone to see this. You would have saved yourself. Phil


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