Ocean’s Thirteen

The characters of Ocean’s Thirteen have a purpose, and the plot is one of revenge this time. One of the original eleven, Reuben (Elliott Gould), is trying to get into the casino and hotel business. He starts one up with his partner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino). To his surprise, even though he claims that he knew Willy does this to all of his “partners,” he is betrayed and put in a vegetative state.

The rest of the group swears revenge, and decides to sabotage the opening night of the new casino/hotel “The Bank,” which I figured was a clever name. “Hey, honey, I’m going to The Bank.” The spouse would never know. It’s brilliant! If you’re reading at this point, you should already know the cast. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, and others. Notably absent are Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with their absence explained to us as “not their fight.” That’s a shame, because it would have meant we’d have a strong female character, something missing from this flick.

Ocean’s Thirteen follows the general heist movie formula, with very few deviations. It’s much like the first movie in this regard, except that there isn’t any time spent introducing the characters; since we’ve already seen them for two movies, this would be redundant in my eyes anyway. We get time to set-up the caper, and then we watch it getting pulled off. This time, it’s personal, and the man they’re targeting is a genuine villain. This made me happy, because these movies often target people who haven’t done anything wrong. This time, Willy Bank has done something wrong: He put Reuben in the hospital.

If you’ve seen the first Ocean’s movie, you’ve basically seen this one, except you’ve seen a better version of this one. The first movie, which is still the best of the series, had a focus on the characters, and we enjoyed spending time in their company. This time, although the plot is similar, the characters don’t get much focus at all, with the filmmakers banking on the fact that we care about them from the previous movies.

The dialogue has improved this time around, which I’m happy about because it wasn’t great last time around. Oh, most of it is explaining exactly what’s going to happen when the actual heist occurs, but when we don’t focus on that, and instead get the characters to talk with one another about whatever is on their mind, it’s both clever and interesting. There’s not enough of it, but at least it is there, and an effort was made in this regard.

As with many of these films, there are severe logical problems. This time around, the main one I think about is how the group manages to get a gigantic drill into Las Vegas, and get it all the way to the casino so that it can create a fake Earthquake to try to put the security system offline, but it only lasts that way for just over three minutes. This security system, called “Greco,” can even determine if casino wins are legitimate, something that nobody ever doubts. A woman wins millions of dollars at the slots, and doesn’t even get an interview. It is an infallible system, and more importantly, I want one.

One the actual heist starts to happen, I was entertained. The set-up, which takes more than the first hour to finish, certainly builds it up to be something great. It is, with one last minute switch around being one of the funnies parts, just because you get to see one character’s face after finding out that he’s been duped. There are actually quite a few funny moments, most of which you might not get if you haven’t seen the previous films. Some, you might not get even if you have, because this is a series that loves its inside jokes.

I’d love to see how the budget for this, and the previous films of the series, has been used. This film, like Ocean’s Eleven, had $85 million to spend. Considering how big many of the stars are, I’m curious as to how much was spent on the stars, and how much was left for everything else. There aren’t many special effects, nor is there much need for them, but I certainly am curious. Maybe they spent to the limit, which meant there couldn’t be a Topher Grace cameo.

Some of the running gags from the previous movies were brought back here. One element that didn’t recur was one of the cast members trying to gain back a loved one. I figure that would have been a fairly easy thing to include, with Matt Damon’s character being the obvious one to go through this scenario. I was actually quite surprised at how nobody went in this direction, especially with how many similar things came back from the previous movies of this trilogy.

It’s still good entertainment, and it’s a step up from Ocean’s Twelve. At least this time, the plot isn’t moving at such an accelerated speed that it forgets its earlier moments. We can follow along this time, and while it’s still missing the special something from Ocean’s Eleven, I still had fun. The actors are still, well, high profile actors for a reason, and there is actually a good reason to pull off one big heist this time, which I was very glad about. Had the characters been better developed, this would probably be the best Ocean’s movie so far. As it is, it’s a solid heist movie that’s quite a bit of fun.

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