Judge Ben Saylor doesn't want the labor pains; he just wants the baby.
Our reviews of Ocean's Thirteen (Blu-Ray) (published November 23rd, 2007), Ocean's Thirteen (HD DVD And DVD Combo) (published December 13th, 2007), Ocean's Trilogy (Blu-Ray) (published February 2nd, 2008), and Ocean's Trilogy (HD DVD) (published February 9th, 2008) are also available.
What are the odds of getting even? Thirteen to one.
In 2001, Warner Bros. released Ocean's Eleven, a star-studded remake of the forgettable 1960 Rat Pack film. With slick direction from Steven Soderbergh (then hot off his Oscar win for Traffic) and winning performances from an ensemble cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts, the film was a lark, but a very entertaining lark. Soderbergh reassembled his cast (adding Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vincent Cassel) and relocated to Europe for the 2004 follow-up, appropriately titled Ocean's Twelve. This film, with its change in locale and complicated, self-satisfied script, was not as successful as the first film critically or commercially. For what has been touted as the franchise's finale, Ocean's Thirteen, Soderbergh jettisoned Roberts and Zeta-Jones, added Sea of Love co-stars Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin, and moved the action back to Las Vegas. So does this third installment have luck on its side?
Facts of the Case
Vegas tycoon Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses partner (and Ocean's gang benefactor) Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) out of his share of a lavish new casino. The shock of Bank's betrayal nearly kills Reuben, which does not sit well with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his colleagues, who include Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), and Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle). The group decides that the best way to get back at Bank is to clean out his new casino during its grand opening festivities by rigging all the games, and also to make sure a five-diamond reviewer (David Paymer) has a bad stay at the casino.
The plot of Ocean's Thirteen contains echoes of "The Sting," mainly in that both films involve pulling a scam to avenge a friend. Unfortunately, the story takes its sweet time to get moving, mostly due to long scenes of exposition where Danny and Rusty explain their plan to techno whiz Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard, who also appeared in Ocean's Twelve). Overall, while I was never bored, the filmmakers should have used more judiciousness and trimmed some of the fat here and there.
Slow pace notwithstanding, this is an entertaining flick. Danny and his gang are in fine comedic form, and Brian Koppelman and David Levien's (the duo who wrote Rounders) script supplies the actors with plenty of great lines. Comedic highlights in the film include Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone) leading a strike at a Mexican factory where he has been planted to rig dice, as well as the continuation of the Linus-is-a-rookie jokes from Ocean's Twelve. Koppelman and Levien also include a quieter scene where Danny and Rusty lament Vegas' changing landscape.
In terms of characters in Ocean's Thirteen, the focus this time around seems to have shifted from Danny (who figured prominently in Eleven) and Rusty (who had a larger part in Twelve) to the supporting characters, particularly Linus. Damon makes the most of his character's subplot wherein Linus dons a fake nose to become "Lenny Pepperidge." Affleck is also amusing as an unlikely revolutionary. I enjoyed Izzard's character in Twelve and was glad to see him back again. I was disappointed in the lack of screen time for François Toulour (Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises) this time around, as I thought he was a great character in Twelve. Carl Reiner, who more or less sat out Twelve, gets to don a British accent and a toupee this time around. Newcomers Pacino and Barkin are both mostly wasted. Pacino, surprisingly, underplays here in what has to be one of the actor's most low-key performances in recent memory. Considering her lack of involvement in high-profile films of late, Barkin especially is underused here. Curb Your Enthusiasm fans should watch for Bob Einstein in an amusing appearance.
So how does Ocean's Thirteen measure up to its predecessors? Well, honestly, it comes pretty close to matching the quality of Ocean's Eleven at times. Nothing can be as fresh or original as a first installment, of course, but Ocean's Thirteen restores the fun of watching the heist unfold that was present in Eleven and conspicuously absent in Twelve, where we don't find out what really happened until the end of the movie. In terms of tone, Ocean's Thirteen most closely resembles Twelve, as neither movie takes itself seriously. Eleven, by comparison, had some fairly serious moments like Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and Tess (Julia Roberts) breaking up, and Linus and Danny's discussion toward the beginning of the movie. Humor-wise, the big difference between Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen is that the filmmakers seem to have figured out the limits to this kind of comedy; hence, no Julia Roberts playing Tess playing Julia Roberts sequence in this one. Visually, all three films have had different looks despite the fact that all three were shot by Soderbergh (under the pseudonym Peter Andrews). Of the three, I still like Twelve's 1970s foreign film look the best, but Ocean's Thirteen, with its vivid use of colors (namely red), comes a close second.
The image and sound quality on this DVD are both excellent; the image especially is very clear. Unfortunately, Ocean's Thirteen is extremely lacking in the special features department. There is a 22-minute featurette entitled "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion," which is basically a long Vegas tourism ad. The creators of this featurette try to tie it in to Ocean's Thirteen by throwing in some clips from the movie, but it really doesn't work. A few interesting facts about Vegas' evolution are thrown in, but overall, this can be skipped. We also get four minutes' worth of additional scenes, for which Warner Bros. didn't even bother to provide a menu. The scenes are all unnecessary and were wisely left out of this already-too-long film. Finally, there is a very short and very pointless "tour" of the casino set with producer Jerry Weintraub.
Given Soderbergh's knack for giving a solid commentary for both his own films (The Limey, Solaris) and those of other directors (Point Blank, Billy Budd, The Graduate), it's a shame he didn't weigh in on Ocean's Thirteen. Maybe Warner Home Video is planning an eventual double dip.
Despite its shortcomings, Ocean's Thirteen represents a (mostly) satisfying conclusion to this franchise. Warner Home Video rolled snake eyes with the special features on this disc, however.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Vegas: An Opulent Illusion
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