Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is Ocean's 13 any good? I report... you decide

(Be grateful, I almost wrote this as the header: "Is Ocean's 13 any good? You BET!" I would have had to kick my own ass if I followed through with that)
Thank god they made Ocean's Thirteen. To leave us all with Ocean's Twelve as the last of these characters is kind of cruel and wrong. In fact, if they filmed what George Clooney and Brad Pitt and everybody spent their paycheck money from Ocean's 12 on, instead of the actual movie, it would have at least felt a little more honest. But Thirteen brings it back to what we love about the original so much. Well, the original remake, if you want to get technical about it.

Here's what you need to know about Ocean's Thirteen. It's back in Vegas. It's just the boys this time out. (Catherine Zeta Annoying and Julia Knock it off Already are not even cameo players, their characters dispensed with one simple line" It's not their fight".) And it takes a little while to get going, but when it does, it's a blast.

Here's the set-up. Rueben (Elliott Gould) got double crossed over a deal by Willie Bank (Al "Hoo-Wah" Pacino), and goes into a sort of shock induced coma. The rest of the gang assembles in Vegas with one thing on their minds: Revenge. This time, they don't care about the money as much as making Pacino pay, humiliating him, and honoring Rueben. (Although, money is ok, too). In order to do this, a lot of ridiculous things are required of the characters. Fun, but kind of outlandish. I will say it involves both drills used to make the Chunnel, and getting Andy Garcia to finance the second drill. Nothing else of the plot will I tell, as the joy is discovering it as it unfurls.

Well, after about the first twenty or thirty minutes. Director Steven Soderbergh once again employs his love of European art films and storytelling devices, as Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan (Clooney and Pitt) speak in a vernacular all their own. Sometimes in low hushed tones. Never caring for one moment that nobody in the audience can figure out what they're saying, or that they might becoming frustrated as they watch something potentially cool spiral down into... well, Ocean's 12. Eddie Izzard shows up to aid and abet, and he also speaks like these guys. It's almost irritating, but then something glorious happens. Casey Affleck goes to Mexico.
In order to pull off their plan, it will involve putting magnetic powder in dice to help rig the casino games. In order to do this, Casey Affleck needs to wear an awesome mustache and go to the factory in Mexico. Whilst there, he complains of the heat, and manages to lead all his fellow workers in strike against the working conditions in the factory. And it's hilarious. Casey Affleck almost steals the entire movie with his few scenes down there. With this genius moment, the film gets itself on track, and suddenly everything that seemed boring and stale is fresh again. The movie picks up steam and takes us all on a great ride. The ride we should have gotten last time.

The key ingredient this time around is letting the audience back in on the plan for a bit. The cool thing about Ocean's 11 was that we the audience were given enough information to piece together what was happening, but were still not allowed fully on the plan, leaving some great surprises. The second film , they forgot to let us in on what was happening so that by the time something does happen (or did happen three days earlier), it's not surprise as much as frustration. (And don't get me started on the Julia Roberts looks like Julia Roberts shenanigans.) But this time, we're allowed to know what's going, but are still thrown for a few loops. The actors can play these roles in their sleep at this point, but at least they can play them well. And now, you truly also sense the camaraderie between the actors, and can enjoy their performances together. The characters have been through a lot, and can speak their own language, and they are truly cool. Even if their leader mists up a bit while watching Oprah. (Like you don't).

The film is a return to form, and while it doesn't meet or even beat the first in this series of Ocean's films, it is a marked improvement from the last time. And the soundtrack, by David Holmes, kicks a fair amount of arse. I can't wait to drive around town with it playing, pretending that I'm cool.

At least as cool as me mum says I am.

Oh, two things to note: Ellen Barkin is very good and supremely hot as Pacino's assistant (whom Matt Damon must seduce with a false nose); and Super Dave is in the movie. not as Super Dave, but he's in the film, and he's glorious. Way to go Super Dave and Ellen Barkin!
(And if Ellen Barkin reads this, feel free to give me a call because you're all kinds of alright!)

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