Shiny Shelf

Ocean’s Thirteen

By Stephen Lavington on 01 July 2007

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

In a sense it’s appropriate that a series which begun as a fresh, irreverent reworking of a stodgy, self-indulgent Rat Pack vehicle, a pastiche of the back-slapping Vegas set of the 1960s and 70s in the context of the chummy camaraderie of current movie stars (Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Cheadle, Roberts) has ended itself as a tired and weak collection of raised eyebrows, knowing looks and scenes which go beyond the picaresque to end up as disjointed vignettes in search of a connecting thread.

After the car-crash of ‘Ocean’s 12′ the action returns to Las Vegas, a hive of scum and villainy but treated with the sort of reverence that might be expected of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In an in-jokey reference to the original ‘Ocean’s 11′ Sinatra is invoked as a paragon of the manly virtues, a further mawkish re-writing of history which lacks any sort of resonance in a post-’Loaded’, post ‘Swingers’ world.

Piling cliché on cliché, this time it’s not business, it’s personal as former colleague Reuben (whose character is retconned into the role of mentor rather than somewhat dodgy financier) is muscled out of a casino deal and suffers a heart attack. The gang pledge to get revenge, and go about it in a spectacularly tepid way.

What was a relatively simple single plot in the first film, albeit expressed in a tangled up and convoluted way, has become a confusing mess of competing narrative elements. ‘Robbing a casino’ is easy enough to understand, and ‘getting revenge’ should be a similarly simple concept. However, it’s never made clear (until the end) what form this revenge will take, and whereas the reason for some actions are clearly signposted others are slapdash and make little sense, even after the big reveal at the end. The sketchy attempts at character development are unnecessary, poorly-done and, at times, embarrassing (one scene – where Brad Pitt’s Rusty catches George Clooney’s Ocean crying at Oprah Winfrey is particularly cringe-inducing)

What is more, suspension of disbelief has become increasingly difficult to sustain. Prepared to accept that not one but both the machines used to dig the Channel Tunnel could be purchased, exported and set up underneath Las Vegas in the course of a few weeks? This
may be the film for you.

The film also has a darker, vicious streak that seems out of place with the sunny demeanour of the earlier two. Heart attack aside the first thoughts of revenge turn to murder, nice-guy Clooney threatens the family of a casino employee and one whole part of the con takes the form of a wincingly sexist routine that would not have seemed out of place in (one of the worst) ‘Carry On’ films.

In this context it somehow makes it worse that David Holmes turns in another barnstorming score – probably his best since the original –primarily as it raises the prospect of actually purchasing something with the ‘Ocean’s 13′ name on it.

‘Ocean’s 13′ is no good as a con movie, no good as a light dramatic-comedy and no good as a vehicle for any of its stars. Garbage.

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By Stephen Lavington

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