Loading...

Ocean’s Thirteen's Con Job 

Who’s zooming whom?

Wednesday, Jun 6 2007
Comments

Blame it on the scarcity of natural light, or maybe the widespread absence of clocks, but Steven Soderbergh seems to have overstayed his Sin City welcome. His series of Ocean’s movies, which began as a breezy kiss-off to Hollywood’s self-aggrandizing tentpole blockbusters, had already, by Ocean’s Twelve, begun to feel a little too cool for the room. Now, Soderbergh has made a movie so cool it’s practically comatose. Sputtering along from one half-cocked gag line and self-satisfied in-joke to the next, Ocean’s Thirteen is as slapdash and slipshod a three-quel as any in this summer’s box-office sweepstakes. It’s as if, like Sinatra in the days when he was playing short sets and forgetting lyrics, Soderbergh and company thought they just had to show up and we’d be entertained.

From the beginning, the Ocean’s movies have been as ephemeral as one of George Clooney’s shit-eating grins, and you’d be crazy to buy a ticket expecting to see a work of any great substance. But Ocean’s Eleven had real verve and snap, and a puckish fun that came from watching Soderbergh and his A-list pals play hooky in the neon jungle for a fraction of their usual salaries. Then something unexpected happened: The movie turned into a monster international hit. Soon, a sequel was in demand, and by the time it arrived, what had started out as an off-the-cuff alternative to bloated Hollywood franchise movies had gone from parody to paradigm.

In Ocean’s Thirteen, there is a plot, so to speak, though it would take a good deal longer to relate than I suspect it took the screenwriting team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders) to come up with. The gist is that an unscrupulous casino baron oh-so-cleverly named Willy Bank (Al Pacino, dyed George Hamilton orange) has screwed Ocean-gang father figure Reuben (Elliott Gould) out of his share of a joint hotel venture, the stress from which has landed Reuben in the ER with a coronary. So Danny (Clooney) and Rusty (Brad Pitt) and Linus (Matt Damon) and Dorothy and Toto and all the rest drop what they’re doing and rush to Reuben’s bedside, where an elaborate, “seemingly impossible” revenge scheme is hatched. The plan is to make off with a few hundred million of Bank’s loot not by stealing it, but by winning it, from his own casino tables — after, of course, they’ve been systematically rigged to pay out over and over and over again.

click to enlarge Always bet on . . . khaki? (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)
  • Always bet on . . . khaki? (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

Related Stories

In the event that you maintain some uncertainty about how this all ends, far be it from me to give up the game. Let’s just say that it’s hard to get too worked up about a heist in which every last piece snaps into place with the ease of a child’s jigsaw puzzle. Need to rig a craps table with some radio-controlled dice? Send those intrepid Malloy brothers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck) undercover in the Mexican sweatshop where the dice are manufactured! Need some last-minute cash to bankroll your scheme? Just turn to your longtime arch-nemesis (Andy Garcia), who’ll be only too happy to oblige! Need a conveniently timed, Irwin Allen–style earthquake to wreak havoc with Bank’s ultra-high-tech security system? Well, you get the idea. In Ocean’s Thirteen, Danny Ocean has developed such an outsize ability to make happen whatever he wants to happen that the movie could be considered Soderbergh’s first foray into the superhero genre. After a while, I actually began to feel sympathetic for old money-grubbing Bank. With odds like these, he doesn’t stand a fighting chance.

I realize, of course, that none of these things are supposed to matter, that any movie called Ocean’s followed by some double-digit numeral is meant to be such a rollicking good ride that you won’t have time to think about what does or doesn’t hold water. But in Ocean’s Thirteen, the insouciant charm wears off early, and what seemed carefree about the earlier films comes to seem careless, from the lazy plotting to Soderbergh’s I-can-put-the-camera-wherever-the-fuck-I-want-and-shoot-everything-on-a-zoom-lens direction. This time, the con is on the audience.

OCEAN’S THIRTEEN | Directed by STEVEN SODERBERGH | Written by BRIAN KOPPELMAN and DAVID LEVIEN | Produced by JERRY WEINTRAUB | Released by Warner Bros. | CitywideQuestion or comment? Email askfilm@laweekly.com  or post it on our movie blog.

Reach the writer at sfoundas@villagevoice.com

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Wed 20
  2. Thu 21
  3. Fri 22
  4. Sat 23
  5. Sun 24
  6. Mon 25
  7. Tue 26

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office Report

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!

Slideshows

  • 20 Neo-Noir Films You Have to See
    The Voice's J. Hoberman was more mixed than most on Sin City when he reviewed it in 2005, but his description of the film as "hyper-noir" helps explain why this week's release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has us thinking back on the neo-noir genre. Broadly speaking, neo-noir encompasses those films made outside of film noir's classic period -- the 1940s and '50s -- that nevertheless engage with the standard trappings of the genre. As with most generic labels, there isn't some universal yardstick that measures what constitutes a neo-noir film: Where the genre might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown. Our list falls closer to the latter stance, mainly featuring works from the '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Though a number of the films mentioned here will no doubt be familiar to readers, it's our hope that we've also highlighted several titles that have been under-represented on lists of this nature. --Danny King

    See also:
    35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing

    15 Documentaries That Help You Understand the World Right Now
  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.

Now Trending