Eye-pleasing duds, high-tech high jinx
"The robb'd that smiles, steals something from the thief." Shakespeare's Othello
Andy Garcia's wealthy Terry Benedict is financing Danny Ocean's Vegas heist from casino owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino) in order to get the last smile of vengeance, thief to thief, while Danny and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) exact their own revenge. No honor among these slick reprobates, and good time is had by all the men and, this time, not Julia Roberts, but Clooney's real-life squeeze, Ellen Barkin, as Abigail Sponder, tough right hand to Bank.
I go to most movies as a film critic with my sensibility well-guarded against the fluffy confection of just another heist. But the Ocean's franchise, like the Bond's, has a cachet all its own with eye-pleasing duds, high-tech high jinx, and self-referential dialogue. Thus I am free to enjoy without feeling as if I'd sold out to crass commercialism?I have, but willfully and pleasurably.
I guess I'm sucked in like everyone else at the movies, even with as many as I've seen and written about, because I want to go where the director, in this case the estimable Steven Soderbergh, wants to take me. In Ocean's 12, it was all over Europe; in Thirteen it's the entertainment Mecca of the Western world.
No deep thoughts come to mind, just summer mindlessness dressed up for partying (Pitt and Clooney very nicely decked out, understatedly). Clooney's musings about the changes in Vegas since guys like him had shaken Sinatra's hand serves as "change" leitmotif lighter than air. Twenty years from now we'll be talking about the iconic Pitt and Clooney in the same nostalgic way. Ocean's Thirteen reinforces its place in popular culture as a repository for our transitory adulation of movie stars and the escapes they gave us long ago.
At the end, Matt Damon exits with "See you when I see you," a fitting piece of noncommittal that may promise another Ocean's installment or just more star sightings. Clooney says goodbye to Pitt with an in-joke the world is in on: "Hey! Next time! Keep the weight off. Pitt retorts, "Have a couple of kids." This is typical of the low-key, sweetly narcissistic third installment.
Ocean's hits a lucky thirteen this time around without a big jackpot but a great deal of good will.