Monday, 7 September 2009

Ocean's Thirteen

Lowdown: Yet another sophisticated casino heist.
The 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven was a film that created a bit of an echo out there. It was an effective thriller but also an effective comedy, it had style and it had a mighty cast of A list celebrities. To me it felt like that film took the “let’s rob a bank” genre a step forward. Then came Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, a film that took the genre to Europe but also took the excitement factor out of the frame and frankly bored me. And now we got to watch Ocean’s Thirteen, a 2007 release I didn’t bother watching upon release due to sequel fatigue syndrome. Should I have waited so long?
Ocean’s Thirteen features the same gang and the same formula, only that we’re back to Vegas. Al Pacino wants to rule Vegas so he builds this even harder to ignore casino while stepping on the toes of Elliot Gould. Gould’s friends, including the Ocean gang led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt, take offense and decide the best way to avenge Gould’s shame is to ensure Pacino’s casino loses as much money as possible on its opening night; we’re talking hundreds of millions on the Ocean scale.
So they go about scheming and devising ways of beating the casino at its own game. Money is not an object for them, distances mean nothing to them, and technologies that don’t exist yet are readily available to our guys. Will they make it? Well, ask a silly question. More to the point, though, my main grip with Ocean’s Thirteen is that it really doesn’t have any thrill in the “will they make it or will they get caught” department that is so crucial to the bank robbery genre; sure, they have a difficulty here and there and there is the unexpected, but it’s all too smooth and too predictable. Too sequely is probably the best phrase here.
So what are we left with? Lots of style. It’s not just in the acting, it’s not just in the Vegas aura of artificial glamor, it’s in the way the film is directed: mostly the use of high contrast, highly saturated shots throughout. Ocean’s Thirteen has a very distinct look and feel to it that nicely supplements the sophistication of the robbery and the overall nice comedy taking place in front of us.
Representative scene:
Our gang’s Matt Damon wears a sophisticated bit of material on his face that seduces a woman so much she falls for him and lets him go ahead with a major part of a robbery. Well, if such material really existed, it would probably be the best selling item in the world, wouldn't it?
My point is simple. Ocean’s Thirteen stretches the credibility barrier a bit too much. Sure, they’ve done it before, but in Ocean’s Eleven we probably didn’t notice it as much because the entire premises were new; now we’re more sharp eyed on one hand while on the other the film producers feel they need to go even more over the top than before.
Now, going over the top in the context of what is, after all, a comedy is not necessarily bad. But when we’re expected to believe our heroes can bring the device that dug the British Tunnel into Vegas and use it directly under Pacino’s hotel without being noticed – twice! – then there is obviously a severe over the top issue at hand.
Overall: Fun to watch, but really nothing special. Nothing like the first Ocean, that is. 3 out of 5 stars.

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