Three years after thieving their way around Europe in Ocean's Twelve, Danny Ocean and his crew return to Las Vegas for yet another impossibly elaborate heist in Ocean's Thirteen.
The target of their latest scheme is Willy Bank (Al Pacino), a brash casino mogul poised to unveil his latest uber-posh property, aptly named "The Bank." The notoriously duplicitous Bank earns the ire of Ocean's gang when he unwisely betrays one of the original Eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), leaving Reuben hospitalized and on the edge of financial ruin. Justifiably angered at the sight of their fallen comrade, Danny and the remaining crewmembers vow to crush Bank's high-priced venture. Not content to merely rob the man's casino, they conspire to cripple his enterprise in every conceivable way, from driving away lucrative "whales" to arranging for a scathing review of the hotel to fixing the tables to favor gamblers.
Overall, Ocean's Thirteen is a vast improvement over its predecessor -- an achievement due less to the addition of Pacino than to the return of director Steven Soderbergh. Though he is listed as the official director of Twelve, the sloppy, haphazard nature of the movie indicates that he might have been somewhere else during the filming. Not so with Thirteen. Soderbergh's lively camera work combines with a stellar soundtrack to keep things fun and interesting throughout, especially during the many laborious montages needed to explain each increasingly sophisticated operation. And the chemistry of the cast, led by swaggering alpha males Brad Pitt and George Clooney, is once again solid.
Unlike Twelve, Soderbergh, Clooney and Co. definitely showed up for Thirteen; they just forgot to bring a third act with them. For a movie billed as a heist flick, Ocean's Thirteen is remarkably devoid of any actual suspense. Never is there any real doubt that the crew will pull off the job, more or less without a hitch. There are no last-minute glitches that put the operation in jeopardy, no monkey wrenches that force them to improvise. Essentially, the plot consists of the crew formulating the plan and implementing it, occasionally pausing for some witty banter along the way. And save for a few minor hiccups, everything occurs according to plan.
Part of the problem is that Danny Ocean and his gang have already demonstrated their ability to get away with just about anything. Over the course of the three movies, the central question has evolved from "Will they pull it off?" to "How will they pull it off?" to, finally, "What cool outfits will they be wearing when they pull it off?"
Also missing is any real romantic subplot -- an element that could have added some much-needed sexual tension to the mix. Gone are Ocean's Twelve veterans Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with only a quick piece of dialogue tossed in to explain their absence.
It's interesting to note that in the weeks prior to Ocean's Twelve's 2004 release, studio reps urged critics not to reveal the details of the surprising plot twist involving Bruce Willis and Roberts. No such request is necessary in regards to Ocean's Thirteen, as there are no spoilers to reveal. Indeed, there's nothing to spoil.
And that's truly surprising.