Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Thirteen, the director’s third collaboration with George Clooney in the Ocean’s Trilogy, was hailed in 2007 as a return to the style and wit with which Ocean’s Eleven refreshed the heist/caper genre in 2001. Many audiences and critics had hated the middle film, Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, seeing it as too much of a ‘George Clooney and Pals Travelogue’ around fabulous locations in Vegas and Europe, with too little attention paid to the plot. The film looked amazing and the cast was obviously having a ball, but the story was abysmal.
Ocean’s Thirteen avoids these pitfalls by going back to the basics that worked in Ocean’s Eleven, itself a remake of a classic 1960 casino-heist comedy starring Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals, playing their Hollywood reputations to the hilt. The plot once again centres on an ambitious online casino UK robbery, and the action and dialogue is geared towards driving the different elements of the plan and overcoming unexpected stumbling blocks. The jokey, high-concept style of Hollywood A-Listers having fun on location is still present, but it serves as a frame to a solid plot, rather than a disguise for a weak one.
Familiar Faces are Back
All 11 of the original gang from Ocean’s Eleven are back for Ocean’s Thirteen. George Clooney is the con man, ex-con and heist mastermind Danny Ocean, along with Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, his right-hand man with connections everywhere. Scott Caan and Casey Affleck again play the feuding grease-monkey brothers Turk and Virgil, Matt Damon is pickpocket Linus, Don Cheadle is British munitions expert Basher, and Bernie Mac is flamboyant casino inside-man Frank.
Carl Reiner is Saul the multiple-character con man, Eddie Jemison is Livingstone the tech genius, and Shaobo Qin is ‘The Amazing’ Yen, contortionist extraordinaire. Elliott Gould reprises his role as casino mogul Reuben. Eddie Izzard, as electronics expert Roman Nagle, and former antagonist Terry Benedict, played again by Andy Garcia, round out the gang of 13.
Pacino Playing a Hard-Nosed Tough Guy
Besides an engaging story, Ocean’s Thirteen features excellent cameos from Ellen Barkin and a host of other well-known stars. Crooked casino mogul Willy Bank is a larger-than-life bad guy such as only Al Pacino can play, who cheats Reuben out of a new casino hotel they have built together, the Bank. After Reuben has a heart attack, Ocean tries to talk Willy into compensating Reuben, but he gets short shrift. In retaliation, Ocean gets his gang back together and hatches a plan to clean the Bank out on opening night.
The plan involves three areas: firstly, colluding with insiders on the hotel staff to ensure that the prestigious Five Diamond Award hotel reviewer is treated awfully, to scupper Willy’s hopes of winning the award for the Bank, as he has for four previous hotels. Then Ocean aims to rig every machine and table on the casino floor to pay out massive jackpots all at once. Finally, they will use a tunnel-boring machine to simulate an earthquake and force the casino to evacuate, before it can win any of the players’ money back. This will ruin Willy, and lose him the casino.
Teaming Up with an Old Adversary
When more capital is needed, Ocean approaches casino tycoon Benedict, the gang’s target in the first two films. He agrees to help only if the heist is expanded to include stealing diamond necklaces worth $250-million that are also on display in the hotel. Plots, counterplots and double-crosses ensue, before an inevitable happy ending.