Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers the group together because one of their own has been hurt by a malicious new casino owner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino). Bank entered into a partnership with Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) to use his influence, to steal his land and to smooth the wheels of bureaucracy. Reuben doesn't listen to the warnings and gladly helps with all of this. When his usefulness is over, Willy forces him out and Reuben collapses. Danny and Rusty (Brad Pitt) show up at his bedside and learn what happened. When Willy refuses to make it right, they set out, on two fronts, to destroy Willy and his new deluxe casino, the Bank Casino on opening night; they want to bankrupt the casino and prevent Bank from earning another coveted 5 Diamond Award. They bring in Linus (Matt Damon), Basher (Don Cheadle), Frank (Bernie Mac) and all of the others. There plan is to attack on many fronts, so they bring in a hacking expert, Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) to help. His news isn't good, so they refine their plan. Eventually, they need an infusion of cash and someone suggests they turn to Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He agrees, with one caveat; they must also steal the diamonds that Bank gives his wife every time he receives the 5 Diamond Award for one of his hotels. They are secured in a room at the top of the casino. Keeping an eye out for all of Bank's activities is his personal assistant, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), a tough as nails woman who seems to only have eyes for her boss.
"Ocean's 13", the second sequel to the remake of the original Rat Pack film, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is a really fun caper romp. Love those caper romps. More importantly, it is so much better than the last sequel. Sooooo much better.
Anytime filmmakers go to the effort of redoing the studio logo to match the look and feel of their film, it is a signal we are in for something special. For "13", the studio logos are set against retro graphics, something like you might see in a film from the 60s. Given this is a sequel to a remake of a film from the 60s, the filmmakers are clearly trying to return to the roots of the project and deliver a breezy, fun piece of escape to entertain their fans for a few hours during the summer.
The "Ocean's" films are Soderbergh's most commercial projects. He eschews most of the technical tricks and ideas he experiments with in his other films for a slick, glossy production value perfectly matching the Las Vegas setting. "13" is set at a new casino, which seems to be a mishmash of styles in an effort to attain a coveted 5 Diamond Award, and to appeal to most guests and particularly Asian high rollers. The hotel is filled with dark colors, shiny surfaces (marble, highly polished wood, gold, silver) and luxurious items. Soderbergh's camera (he also serves as the Director of Photography) captures every element of this excess.
The entire cast returns and they have added some memorable actors to make the mix exciting and fresh.
George Clooney seems tailor made for the role of Danny Ocean. He is a con-man and thief who always seems to be one step ahead of his prey. In each film, there are insurmountable odds, but he and the rest of his crew have come up with a plan that is difficult, maybe even impossible, but there is too much money at stake. They have thought through every aspect of the plan and now feel they can navigate through the treacherous waters. This all makes sense, because they put up their own money to bankroll the plan to reap the considerable rewards at the end of the operation, but wouldn't risk it. They would naturally work out every detail to protect their investment.
Clooney has an easy going charm that has helped to make him a movie star. Danny Ocean is for Clooney exactly what the role was for Sinatra; a chance to work with some friends, make some money and give him some bargaining power for more substantial projects. Last year, "The Good German", directed by Soderbergh and starring Clooney, made about $1.2 million, considerably less than it cost. Warner Bros. produced that film as well as "13". I'm sure "12" made "The Good German" and "Syriana" possible and now that they have "13", Warner Bros. is probably not very upset and willing to take a chance on another risky Clooney project.
Clooney is a good actor, but this is a breezy role and he doesn't have to exhibit a lot of acting chops. All of the actors just have to keep things moving, keep them lighthearted and keep the audience entertained. If they do that, they have been successful.
Basically, we go to the "Ocean's" films to see Clooney and Pitt, and to a lesser extent Damon, pal around and joke with one another. And "13" doesn't disappoint here. Clooney and Pitt's characters are the leaders of the group; Damon's character is the step-child always vying for respect. In each film, the leads don ridiculous disguises, and in "13", Danny dresses up like a 60's beatnik, a hotel maintenance worker and others. Rusty dons the disguise of a geologist who needs a haircut. Damon sports a huge nose as his alter ego, a character he creates in an effort for him to get closer to Ellen Barkin's character. It is a lot of fun to watch these guys don a series of disguises, each more outlandish than the last. I don't think anyone involved expects us to believe these costumes work, but somehow they always accomplish what they set out to do in the context of the film's universe.
Clooney and Pitt are the Sinatra and Martin of the group, without all of the alcohol. They have a breezy repartee and seem to really enjoy each other's company, playfully giving each other a little jab here and a little jab there. Danny and Rusty work so well together they are at the point where they can even finish each other's sentences.
Damon's Linus has always been the apprentice, fighting for respect and a chance to play a management role. In "13", part of the plan involves romancing Barkin's character. When this pops up, they immediately turn to Rusty (Pitt), but Linus is adamant that he should do it, as he already has made previous contact with her. Just to make sure, they give him a little help. This is a welcome development in the story and provides for an amusing scene, even with the prosthetic nose Damon wears as his character's alter ego.
Pacino's Bank is a formidable foe. Bank, a well-known hotelier, has received a number of 5 Diamond Awards for his elaborate, deluxe locations around the world. Now, he wants to set-up shop in Vegas and has created an elaborate structure that towers over most of the other luxurious locations on the Strip. Bank will do whatever is necessary to make this hotel a success, because he has sunk a fortune into it. He is also an egotistical control freak, which explains why he is so intent on receiving yet another 5 Diamond Award. These two elements of his character are what Danny and his crew set out to attack.
After Bank enters into an arrangement with Reuben (Gould), in an effort to secure his land, use his connections, and get some chandeliers from an old acquaintance, he cuts him out of the deal. When Danny and his crew enter the story, they decide to give Bank an opportunity to make things right, he shook Sinatra's hand after all. This is, apparently, a code of ethics among people in Vegas. But Bank refuses the 'Billy Martin' and the Ocean's team sets their plan into motion.
We quickly realize how powerful and intimidating Bank can be. When something goes wrong with the Koi pool in his lobby, he immediately turns to the pool attendant and says "it's not his fault, I should have fired you when the problem first started. You're fired". Sponder fires a waitress because she has gained four pounds. Bank and Sponder are on the quest for excellence and this will ultimately lead to their downfall.
When the plan starts to get out of hand, and their resources run low, Danny and the crew decide to approach Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the mark in "Ocean's 11" and the owner of the Bellagio. Benedict is in, because he can't stand Bank's new hotel, it casts a shadow over his pool. But for his involvement, Terry wants them to steal Bank's jewel collection. Every time Bank receives a 5 Diamond Award, he makes a big show of presenting his wife with an elaborate necklace in honor of the award. Each of these necklaces is on display in secure room at the top of the hotel. Stealing these necklaces would be the ultimate way for him to give his chief rival a kick in the backside. The jewels are worth $250 million, but Bendict just wants them stolen.
David Paymer has an amusing turn as the inspector for the 5 Diamond Award. Danny and Rusty are able to learn his identity and they do everything they can to make sure he has an unpleasant stay at the Bank Casino.
Another fun aspect of "Ocean's 13" is the ability to see a variety of people work together again, to see how easily this group of friends meshes together. Of course, the core crew from the first two films returns, and Eddie Izzard's Roman Nagel from "12" returns in a greatly expanded role in this new film. Vincent Cassell also returns as a French jewel thief. But "13" adds both Pacino and Barkin, both of whom steamed up the screen in the sexy "Sea of Love" many years ago. And it's fun to watch Pacino and Garcia working together again, many years after "The Godfather III". These relationships make everyone and everything appear as though they are elements of a well-oiled machine.
Not a groundbreaking, or earth shattering film, "Ocean's 13" is a fun, enjoyable way to spend a few hours at the multiplex this summer.