No, there’s nothing new about “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
It’s the same old schtick we’ve seen in the previous films. So if you aren’t interested in revisiting the world of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his trusty sidekicks pulling off another big-time heist, then don’t bother. No new ground was broken and the twists… aren’t anymore, because we’ve been told in the two previous films exactly what to anticipate before it happens.
Both “Ocean’s Eleven” sequels have been entirely reliant on the star-powered cast to make up for lesser story ideas. Despite scripts that lack the cohesiveness and compact entertainment of the first film, “12” still managed to engage us in the style and swagger that makes the series work and make the risk of going back again worthwhile. “13” is more of the same.
Danny O and the fellas are back in Las Vegas, sans Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta-Jones. This time they are out to avenge an ugly business transaction between ruthless casino boss Willie Bank (Al Pacino), and the lovable, bespectacled Ruben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould)–one that has left him in a bedridden daze of inaction and depression. The crew have gone all in, pooling their assets and talents to rob Bank of the success and attention he craves, and save Ruben from humiliation and despair.
“13” is better than “12,” but not as good as “11.”
I really just wanted to write that sentence. Rather than the existentialist arithmetic it appears to be, it really is the best one-sentence review for the film.
As an audience we all know the background, context and framework of our protagonist-criminal masterminds before we hit the theater. History tells us that, like most fantasy, no principal characters will go to jail or be seriously hurt.
All’s well that ends well, since we already know that Ocean will be one step ahead of the other guy, even if doing so means accomplishing something utterly and ridiculously impossible. These movies are pure entertainment and for that reason alone “Ocean’s Thirteen” isn’t a bust and gets a pass on the scattered weaknesses that permeate the film.
The one true highlight in “13” is the remarkable Don Cheadle. Cheadle’s uber-British explosives-expert Basher Tarr steals the movie in one scene, opposite Pacino. Basher hilariously impersonates a flashy stunt motorcyclist a la Evel Kinevel– with the kinetic energy of an early Eddie Murphy– as the others quickly alter information that would endanger the heist.
We have come to expect and rely on a formula, that for three films, has worked to varying degrees. Let’s hope if director Steven Soderbergh and the gang just have to make another one that they pause for a moment, throw in something unexpected– like a superb scrip– and come up with at least a few surprises that audiences can’t figure out from the trailer. We can forgive “nothing new” for awhile, but I’m guessing three is the limit.