Ocean's Thirteen Review
Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) has brought his business interests above board. It has, though, done him little good. Having become a partner to property developer Willie Bank (Al Pacino), Reuben has found himself manhandled, threatened, ripped off and almost dying of a heart attack within one of Bank's casinos. Now Reuben has retired to his bed, wiling away the days staring at the television until depression claims his life. Not that he's asked but Reuben's friends want revenge. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) call in the old team and set to work on bringing Bank down, taking his new hotel and casino for half-a-billion on opening night. Not only will this cause a crisis in his boardroom but it will also prevent him from winning another prestigious Five Diamond Award. Only now a face from their past has edged his way into the gang, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who asks for something more from Ocean, that, in return for his financial backing, they steal the diamond necklaces that Bank buys for each of the Five Diamond Awards he has been accredited with. Three-quarters of a billion on the opening night? And only three minutes in which to make it work...
That said, it doesn't ever feel as though a description of the plot is in any way relevant to one's enjoying of Ocean's Thirteen. It has more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire. A hospital full of medics would struggle to say if there was any life about it - they might even declare the performances of Clooney, Pitt and Pacino clinically dead - while the various threads looked to be heading to a place marked out for misshapen Christmas jumpers before, in the film's final minutes, Ocean's Thirteen, somewhat miraculously, knit them together into a cohesive plot of high rollers, revenge and Reuben Tishkoff.
Yet, in spite of all that, it's an enjoyable film, proving that it isn't necessary to understand Ocean's Thirteen to get something out of it. Although, to be fair, it is not a complicated affair, more that neither encourages an audience to pay very much attention to it nor to ever punish them for their lack of it. Instead, like Ocean's Eleven, Snatch and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, a convoluted tale of crooks, gangsters and criminals talking the language of a heist while the stars and director Soderbergh ensure that even the most backwards of viewers are occasionally steered back to the film. Much of what Clooney, Pitt and Garcia say and do makes so very little sense, one can only assume that none of it actually matters. And perhaps it doesn't, not when the caper ends with a helicopter flying out over the Las Vegas skyline as if to distract the audience once again. The slang and in-jokes used by Ocean's Thirteen sounds snappy and sharp but meaningless to the average audience - a Billy Martin? A Gilroy, Brody or Susan B Anthony? - while Soderbergh ensures that it is as richly coloured a film as one might imagine of Las Vegas, more Diamonds Are Forever than CSI. The film peels away into a series of disguises, cons, gags and bluffs that becoming increasingly unbelievable but which, handled by a cast who treat this like the very stylish storytelling that it is, is never unforgivable. A problem comes, though, with a falling back into gadgetry to accomplish the heist, which requires a Q-like moment to better explain magnetrons, lock downs and how the drill from the building of the Channel Tunnel has been diverted to downtown Las Vegas to create an artificial earthquake. Perhaps it drilled its way underneath the Atlantic and a dozen or so states before its final destination in Nevada.
The main criticism that this viewer has as regards Ocean's Thirteen is that two hours does seem very long for a film that is all heist and precious little else. Less than an hour in, I was scanning the back of the cover to check how long was left. "Another hour?" was my less-than-patient response. When Danny Ocean cries at an episode of Oprah or Rusty Ryan sends the put upon Five Diamond hotel reviewer in the direction of a slot machine on the verge of paying out, it's a rare touch of humanity in a film that has far too little of it. Still, those two moments are two more than Smokin' Aces, Lucky Number Slevin or Revolver ever offered their audiences but, for them alone and for the suggestion of a heart behind the flash of Ocean's Thirteen, we should probably be glad.
Ocean's Thirteen troubled me when it first began as, with its grainy, oversaturated look, it looked as though something had gone very badly wrong with the television. However, this is quite deliberate and though it takes a little getting used to, this particular style of shooting is in keeping with Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich and Out Of Sight. The DVD does a reasonable job with the quality of the picture. At times it is hard to tell but once Soderbergh moves beyond this first flash of style, Ocean's Thirteen settles a little, moreso when Willie Banks' hotel becomes the setting for most of the film and, like de Palma's Snake Eyes, Soderbergh must content himself with letting his camera prowl around the corridors and between the betting table. The DVD does a fine job with the film, with the image looking reasonably clear and with no obvious faults. Again, the same can be said of the audio track, which is fine but doesn't quite sparkle from all six channels. There's a nice thud from that cross-channel digger, most noticeable when the artificial earthquake strikes but neither it nor the picture are anything out of the ordinary.
Vegas: An Opulent Illusion (22m47s): "When people see it, they're absolutely fascinated by it!" Not me, as I have no more interest in going to Las Vegas than I have in extracting my own wisdom teeth without the aid of a painkiller. Still, the millions who go there every year to keel over lifeless onto the roulette tables clearly feel differently, with this look at the history of the city describing the early days of Las Vegas, the building of the Mirage, the arrival of Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack and to today, where casinos will spare no expense to bring the big players to the city.
Jerry Weintraub: Walk And Talk (2m25s): The producer of Ocean's Thirteen takes the audience on a short walk through the sets.
Additional Scenes (4m35s): None of these would have added very much to the finished film had they been included. A little more Andy Garcia, perhaps. Eddie Izzard showing off a fixed dealing machine. Scott Caan complaining about having to clean the men's restroom. As well as an alternate take of a Clooney/Pitt scene from the film, that is as good as these scenes get.
I've never really gotten on with Soderbergh. The dreary films that have pretensions towards art, such as Solaris and sex, lies and videotape, are as flimsy as his more successful films but what they share is a concern for style over substance. That's a particularly relevant criticism here as beyond the style and charm seeps through every scene, there really is nothing else. Much as I enjoyed watching Ocean's Thirteen, I didn't remember very much of it the morning after and would be very near to drawing a blank were you to ask me for a favourite scene. However, in coming clean about my own opinions on Soderbergh, my bias has probably knocked a point or two off the score for Ocean's Thirteen. If you have rather more of a liking for Ocean's Eleven, Out Of Sight or Erin Brockovich than I do, then by all means treat yourself to Ocean's Thirteen and make the most of its crime caper.