Ocean's 13

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Ocean's 13
Review (5/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

Before I begin my review of Ocean's 13, I have a small confession to make. Try as I may, I had some difficulty preparing an objective review of this film. After spending two hours watching Brad Pitt and George Clooney, they could have been starring in a remake of Ishtar or Gigli and I may not have noticed. So, please, read with caution.

Ocean's 13 is the third and (apparently) final film in the "Ocean's" franchise. Section Eight, the production company once owned by George Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh, has announced that it will be the final film, yet I have difficulty believing that this group of guys will never again appear on film together. They just seem to enjoy making films together too much for this to be it.

Ocean's 13 finds Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his crew together again, under less than ideal circumstances. Their mentor, Reuben Tishkoff, is clinging to life in a hospital after suffering a heart attack induced by a vicious double-cross orchestrated by his new business partner, Willie Bank (Al Pacino). When Bank rebuffs Ocean's request to do right by Reuben, the boys develop a plan to show him just how unsettling it can be to have the rug ripped out from under one's feet. Unlike their other profit-driven capers, this time the only thing that they are hoping to gain is pure, sweet revenge.

If nothing else, Ocean's 13 is an extremely stylish film. Everything about it oozes effortless, chic glamour. Not content to be merely cool, it is elevated to the status of uber-cool. From the actors, to the clothing, to the shooting locations, to the sets, Soderbergh and his crew have created a visually stunning film that succeeds in perpetrating the best caper of all - distracting its audience from the fact that the end product is an exercise in style over substance.

Yes, that is right. Not even the fog created by Pitt and Clooney could hinder me from discerning the fact that this film was a bit disappointing. Much like Ocean's 12, this film failed to recapture the magic of Ocean's 11. In this case, if I had to point the finger of blame, poor screenwriting would be the target of my critical accusations.

Unlike its two sequels, Ocean's 11 worked because of its straightforward story. The audience had the benefit of being privy to the details of the caper as it unfolded. Sure, there was the suspense of wondering whether it would all come together, and there were a couple of twists that you did not quite see coming, but the screenplay managed to draw the viewer into the story. Ocean's 13 tried to recapture that winning formula, but instead lost the audience within the first ten minutes of the film.

The difficulty, it appears, arose when modern-day screenwriters attempted to adopt the characters originally created in the 1960's by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell. The two sequels, both penned by different screenwriters, failed to capture the essense of the characters created by Johnson and Russell, failed to replicate the inviting simplicity of the original story and failed to maintain any internal consistency between the three films. In the case of Ocean's 13, the result is a story which fails to find its rhythm. It failed to develop a cohesive plot, it moved at too rapid a pace and it introduced at least one character who was totally unnecessary.

Fortunately for the actors in this film, they are possessed of sufficient talent and physical appeal to boost this unworthy material into something reasonably watchable. It is clear from watching the film that they enjoyed working together - their easy banter revealed a genuine camaraderie, and at times it was enjoyable to watch them have fun playing together. Brad Pitt, in particular, appeared to be unable to suppress a wry smile as his boys mercilessly ribbed one another.

The complaints that I have about the film's characters relate not so much to the acting, as they do to the screenplay. Because of the choppiness of the story, I found that several of the characters were sorely underused in this sequel. The bickering Malloy brothers, brilliantly played by Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, were deprived of the opportunity to engage in their hilarious verbal sparring. Don Cheadle need not have bothered brushing off his butchered English accent for all the screentime that he enjoyed as Basher Tarr. Ellen Barkin's character, Abigail Sponder, was a complete waste of film and an affront to smart, able-minded women (which she was supposed to be portraying) everywhere. I found myself secretly hoping that Julia Roberts would make a surprise appearance to reprise her role as Tess Ocean.

One actor who managed to transcend the material that he was given is Al Pacino. One of the undisputed giants of modern cinema, Pacino delivers a surprisingly restrained performance as the villainous Willie Bank. Unlike the boisterous, explosive characters that have become Pacino's trademark, his portrayal of Bank simmers, creating a thinly veiled but very credible sociopath. It is some of the best acting that I have seen from Pacino in several years - what a shame that it is relegated to this mediocre film, because it is award-calibre work that will likely be overlooked when award season rolls around next year.

In spite of its sleek package, Ocean's 13 is a film that makes promises which it fails to deliver. The only caper that takes place is the one in which innocent viewers are conned out of the price of a ticket, only to realize as the end credits roll that both their money and two hours of their time has been stolen from them. Unless, of course, you like to spend two hours gawking at Brad and George, in which case it is time well wasted.

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