When underhanded hotelier Willy Bank (Al Pacino) screws over Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) in a partnership deal on a new Las Vegas casino so completely that the man has a heart attack, Reuben's pals, the Danny Ocean (George Clooney) led ten, come together to plot revenge. To get Bank where it hurts, they plan the impossible - to pull the rug out from under the house while ensuring the hotel never attains the coveted five diamond rating With the assistance of master technician Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) and a most unlikely financial backer in "Ocean's Thirteen."
Director Soderbergh's first "Ocean" lark was a loopy surprise, a winking remake of a Rat Pack film more famous for its cast than its cinematic storytelling. With its sequel, Soderbergh and crew turned that winking into an inside joke, a bunch of rich movie stars acting like frat boys on a vacation they were making their audience pay for. So while "Ocean's Thirteen" is pretty lazy and lightweight filmmaking, at least I can say it didn't piss me off.
For one thing, the gang's back in Vegas, where they belong and in figuring out how to undermine the house's odds, writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien concoct some amusing subplots. Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) is sent down to a Mexican dice manufacturer and starts a worker's revolution. Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) can't corrupt a card game to save his life and Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) insists he can seduce Bank's assistant, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin, Pacino's "Sea of Love" costar), wearing a prosthetic nose that makes him look like Crispin Glover. Danny and Rusty (Brad Pitt) mostly hang around and riff on each other, which they are good at even when their supposedly emotional reaction to an episode of Oprah rings obviously false. But there is also the idiotic, and worse - boring, plotline that sees Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) piloting an underground earth borer, the one that created the Chunnel from the French side, that we must simply accept is suddenly making its way beneath the Las Vegas strip. It is the type of non sequitur that passes for humor far too often lately. And while Saul Bloom's (Carl Reiner) charade as a Five Diamond inspector is amusingly played, the gang's torture of the real one (David Paymer) is hackneyed ho-hum.
Pacino, though, is given a role to sink his teeth into - an evil Steve Wynn type, which he does with relished entitlement. Banks is so bad, in fact, he hires 'models who serve' so that he can retain the right to fire any who do not maintain a prescribed weight. Barkin, however, seems miscast as his anxious assistant. She may have pulled it off back in "The Big Easy" day, but age just makes her wear confidence too well.
So while "Ocean's Thirteen" isn't exactly a summer sizzler, it's an airy entertainment that has the smarts to add a second, unexpected swindle that is more satisfying than the main event.
Robin did not see this film.
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