Jun 8, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen (2007): C-

The cast of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's films are truly irreplaceable, mainly in that his plethora of iconic celebrity faces exist for little purpose other than to play themselves as the exclusive members of some ridiculous pop culture phantasmagoria. George Clooney and Brad Pitt aren't Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan - they're George Clooney and Brad Pitt sporting pseudonyms so as to justify having taken $8-11 of your dollars rather than the mere $2 needed to acquire the latest celebrity gossip magazine. Willie Bank (Al Pacino) is this threequel's lead newcomer, a hotel manager elitist who screws series veteran Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) out of his rightful half of a new casino to be built in Vegas, leaving him not only ruined but with a near-fatal heart attack as a result. Enter Danny Ocean and company to right this wrong by means of upsetting the opening night of Bank's casino by whatever means necessary (at its most extreme, the crew seeks to simulate an earthquake beneath the precarious Vegas location). In this way, the film stands as little more than a feature-length rendition of Home Alone's booby trap sequences, although missing here is the payoff otherwise so precariously built up to. This isn't so much offensive as it is monotonous and boring, as little about Soderbergh's wobbly construction seeks to exist out of the moment of its own self-designed superficiality, ultimately adding up to less than the sum of its parts. Invoking everything from Zapata revolution to Oprah's "Favorite Things" with only passing acknowledgment of a world beyond its star power circle-jerk, the film is a cocky and condescending indulgence test for anyone who hasn't automatically bought into its faux-cool suave. Part of me would like to say that the focus on the minutiae details of this third heist's orchestration falls into the realm of entertainment (and certainly, there are sporadic humorous moments), but Ocean's Thirteen remains a film more intent on amusing itself than in ever throwing the audience a bone. An auteuristic nightmare, the film encapsulates God knows how many elements of self-proclaimed "indie" cinema and smug retro stylistics; Soderbergh coheres these elements that have inspired him, but to what extent, save for an continuously incessant visual clash that rubs our faces in primary color hell? This is a film without a dream, without virtue, without love for anything other than itself. Forget replacing the cast - like Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones from the previous installment, you can lose them altogether and call it a day.


  1. Sounds like "C-" is fair, given your bad mood here. Believe me, I get why you might be so harsh on it: it exists as commericalism personified but it's so tame a series, morally speaking, compared to all the celeb-fucking going on across America and the internet right now that I find a slight respite in these movies, these celebrities. These guys are movie stars for a reason, you know? They are better looking that me (and you? I dunno, but probably, right?) and my buddies, and part of movie-going is wish fulfillment, I'd argue, so for that I thank these triflin' sumbitches for going gaga on they rich selves and giving me a good time. I like smart fluff and I, for one, really enjoy myself at these Ocean's movies. Perhaps after seeing this tonight I'll write something about why, if that's possible, and prepare myself for more hate from bloggers the globe over. Granted, there's probably not as much going on here as there is in Pirates or EPIII, but aside from the commentary on performance (a common theme in heist/con movies/plays/books) there's bound to be some laughs and funny compositions and plottings as there were in the previous two. And, let's be honest, as BP says, "The nose plays."

  2. Anonymous10:39 PM

    I don't know you, and I certainly don't want to argue with you, but if I might just make a point. Some of the best movies were made simply to amuse themselves. You obviously feel for some reason that Ocean's 13 is somehow looking down, if not patronizing, the public. Yet I'd care to say that if you don't want to be amused, don't see it. The entire point is to entertain them- not us. I think that that is admirable, rather than worth admonishing. What else are they expected to do? They make movies... it's their job. We can't expect them to stop having fun just because we want a message in their films, or some sort of bone thrown at us. I enjoy watching it because it gives us hints back- 50 years from now, our children (of course I haven't any idea of your age...) will have no idea the significance of Oprah, or lines from Danny to Rusty like "Why don't you settle down and have some kids". That's funny, if you think about it- and don't get so upset. In any case, it is arguably better than the second (ack, don't get me started) and it brought back the spark and the light of the first- even if you feel it was overdone at points.

  3. ryland: I don't doubt that the Ocean's movies have done their own fair share of harmless entertainment, and while I disliked the movie, I didn't want to go overboard. I commend your own probing of generally dismissed mainstream movies for artistic complexities and aesthetic undercurrents - after reading your EpIII defense, I'm going to give the movie another go (though I never disliked it to begin with), and after a second viewing I think that PotC:AWE kicks even more ass (god help me, it might make my end-of-year honorable mention list).

    anonymous: I appreciate your level-headed defense of the movie. Parts of it bordered on being genuinely entertaining to me, but the whole thing was like one bubble that never came around to popping. I don't dislike celebrity circle-jerks as a rule of thumb (people get down on mainstream pop culture too often simply for it being mainstream pop culture), but this one just didn't do it for me (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, was almost good). Even the moments when I did laugh had a dry, stale flavor to them, and I think that Soderbergh's genre imitation/replication is so rigid that it prevents virtually all feeling.

  4. Anonymous2:47 PM

    I don't think it's the "celebrity circle jerk" aspect that bothered me, given that I actually liked the first sequel. Thirteen was just flat-out boring for at least half of the movie. I don't know what happened, but this one just didn't do much for me. It felt a lot less inspired than both of the previous movies. And talk about wasting Cassell!

  5. First: yes, Pirates does kick some butt.

    Second: As I said, uh, earlier, I saw this thing. Yeah, it's not great. It's inane by design and practice. And certainly not as good as 12. But I enjoyed myself all the same. I had fun. And with this movie, and those of its ilk, that's all I'm looking for, to be honest. Curiously, it's movies like this that make me think, wtf is this [criticism] racket even about? Ah, a topic for another time, for another movie -- that is, a movie worthy of more than 300 words. If I were to assign a grade *shudder* I'd go for C, too, I suppose. That's passing, right? (I'd give 11 a B+ and 12 a B, btw.)

    (Oh yeah, Manohla kicks some butt, too.)

  6. Dag nabbit, two more things:

    Sweet new banner & Pirates is definitely going to play a part in my year-end recap, if only to write about how people simply aren't paying attention, like, hardly ever -- even when they're reading a review of a movie (let alone watching a movie).

  7. Anonymous3:00 AM

    How is what Pitt and Clooney are doing any different than what the Rat Pack did with the original Oceans 11? Talk about the clique on parade! At least Soderbergh's versions have a plot.