Ocean's Thirteen is the best sequel of the summer so far. That's not saying much, though.
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, etc.) return for the latest installment of the celebrity-filled heist film, and while it is waves ahead of its predecessor, it still pales in comparison to the first film. This time around, they're not really in it for the money; they want revenge. After a ruthless casino owner named Willie Bank (Al Pacino) betrays their friend, they decide to take the stakes high - by taking down his casino. The plot is simple: ruin his reputation and give out $500 million of his money to lucky gamblers.
Ocean's Twelve was all but a bust; it was boring and not very extravagant compared to the original film, which was great in just about every way. Director Steven Soderbergh clearly learned from his mistake and has taken the team back to where it all started, Vegas. The heist is big, elaborate and entertaining, if not always very believable.
While Ocean's 11 stayed within the realm of believability even though, I'm sure, plenty of it was farfetched, it definitely takes a bit more of a stretch to allow for everything that happens in this chapter. From $36 million machines that can cause earthquakes to seducing women with some kind of super strong pheromone, the movie definitely goes a bit overboard, but as long as you're willing to allow for that, everything comes together in a relatively entertaining package.
Clooney, Pitt and Damon are as good as they've always been, though the banter isn't quite as on game as it was in previous films. The rest of the cast gets much less screen time for the sake of its three stars ("stars" being a relative term here), which is a bit of a shame, but everyone gets a chance to shine just a little bit. Cheadle, a personal favorite, unfortunately does not get much to do other than dressing up as an American daredevil with an American flag on his two front teeth.
As for the new addition, Pacino is good as you might expect, though not nearly as good as I was hoping for. The fault lies not in the actor but the character himself; compared to Terry Benedict (Andy Garcias), Willie Bank just isn't as scary, sleazy or memorable. It would have nice to see a little more exchange between the two casino owners, or, for that matter, more exchanges between Bank and Ocean. Bank, is a good villain but not a great one.
The film is missing some of the cohesiveness that made 11 so good, namely the fact that that film had Ocean smartly steal the money, steal the girl and escape scotch free all at the same time, whereas this movie has him stealing the money and not much else. He even rubs it into the face of Bank at the end, which begs the question: why doesn't Bank do something about it?
So, Ocean's Thirteen is not the most spectacular film by any means, and tightening in a few places and fleshing out some other areas could have really made this a gem, but it still works as an entertaining summer movie. Compared to the disappointing sequels that we've been forced to sit through earlier this summer, Ocean's Thirteen is a breathe of fresh air.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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