Looking Back At OCEAN'S THIRTEEN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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After 2001s Ocean's Eleven and the 2004 sequel Ocean's Twelve, the inevitable Ocean's Thirteen arrived in 2007. The first one is still as enjoyable today as it was almost twenty years ago, the second felt like a natural continuation with an interesting twist but hindered with a complex robbery plot, but this third Ocean's film feels more of a tagged on afterthought than anything else. A poor MacGuffin of an excuse to bring everyone together one last time. That's not to say it's not enjoyable to see them in action again.

In Ocean's Eleven the gang took out three of Terry Benedict's (Andy Garcia) Las Vegas casinos in one go with a smart and clever plan, then they had to pay it all back with interest to Benedict in Twelve by staging a different theft, now in Thirteen the team are all back to casino stealing with a little help from Benedict himself.

I say all back but neither Julia Roberts nor Catherine Zeta-Jones returns in Thirteen. The action is, however, back on the Las Vegas strip, and although glamorous I kind of enjoyed the European setting of the sequel. So we're missing a strong female lead, that Mediterranean backdrop, a casino for Spanish players, and much of the charm and surprises of the previous installments, largely because we've seen it all before. It's like an Ocean's greatest hits from director Steven Soderbergh and the ensemble, but one whose track listing is missing a couple of much loved classics.

The target of Ocean's Thirteen is Willy Banks (Al Pacino) who owns a series of highly rated "5 Diamonds" hotels. The team is not in it for the money this time round but for revenge after Banks swindled Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), one of the original Eleven, out of his fortune in a dodgy hotel investment deal, the stress of which causes him to have a heart-attack, leaving him bedridden. Of course, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is not going to let that go.

As the strap-line reads, "What are the odds of getting even? 13 to 1." It's time to place your bet and pick a side. Good guys or bad guys? Well, OK, they're not exactly good guys, their master criminals after all, but they are nice guys and Thirteen, like Ocean's Twelve before it, relies heavily upon that fact to draw you in and keep you watching, because it's not long before the writers have turned a simple MacGuffin into a complex plot complex that's not easy to follow. Not every twist and turn makes sense and we're expected to go with everything that's unfolding without questioning the logic of it all. Sometimes that attitude does work, as I felt it did largely in the first sequel. Other times, it doesn't. And in Ocean's Thirteen it largely doesn't.

Coming to the performances, the original eleven of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck), Turk Malloy (Scott Caan), Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), "The Amazing" Yen (Shaobo Qin), Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) and Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) are all on fine form. Clooney and Pitt once again lead from the front but Damon gets a promotion as well, while the rest play their part. Even three films in you'll forget who does what and what is each individuals specialty, outside of the core three, but that doesn't matter. They're all master of disguises as this film will attest.

Among the new additions is Vincent Cassel as a master thief, but the most notable is Al Pacino who utilises his infectious persona to great effect and is a great choice to replace Andy Garcia as the principal antagonist. It's actually Garcia's Terry Benedict who may have the best story arc of all of the cast. Because the ensemble is so big, no one else is really given a chance at character development. Several reviewers noted upon release that the actors are all essentially just playing exaggerated versions of their own movie star personas. But when you put the three films together, Garcia is the only one who has at least something approaching a redemption arc.

On an overall scale, Ocean's Thirteen is not the most memorable conclusion to the series of elaborate heist films, and whilst its nice to see the gang together again and the film offers a good, lighthearted dose of fun & amusement like its predecessors, it makes some mistakes that were also made in the second installment, which really should've been fixed, and sadly ends up creating some new ones which stop it from reaching the heights and delights of the original.

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