Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ocean's 13

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The best con men have a way of overriding our deepest suspicions, smoothly charming us into buying whatever guff they're selling; even if we sense deep down that we're being scammed. So it is with director Steven Soderbergh and his ever- swelling glamour gang of celebrity buds, as they slyly bluff their way through the third entry in the Ocean's series. Never mind that the retro/modern caper premise was thoroughly exhausted after the first go-round, or that the sloppy second episode came off like little more than a lavish extended European vacation on the studio's dime. Truth is, these cats are having too much of a blast to stop now, and they'll keep on swinging till long after curfew, so why not come along for the party?

There are plenty of reasons to attend this particular shindig, even when the clubby, cooler-than-thou atmosphere gets thick enough to choke on. While it doesn't run like the fine-tuned performance engine that was the first picture, 13 certainly has far fewer moving parts than its immediate predecessor, and hums along at a fluid, pleasurable pace. The film is altogether more focused and tighter, setting most of the action back home in Glitter Gulch, which helps keeps it centered on the mechanics of the caper and not on some marble-covered seaside villa. There's also a better villain, in the oily form of Al Pacino's Willy Blank, a casino mogul who sneakily squeezed Rueben (Elliott Gould) out of his share of a glittering new mega casino, and gave the boy a heart attack in the process.

So now revenge is on the table, with a huge plot to rig sick Willy's gaudy casino to fail on opening night, and loot his massive collection of diamonds in the process. The plan is so grand it involves fake noses, computer hackers, simulated earthquakes, a strike at the plant that makes gaming chips and even a helping hand from old enemy Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Gone are the arm candy love interests, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts, because, as George Clooney's master thief Danny Ocean tells us in the first few minutes "this is not their fight"; besides, who needs such leggy distractions getting in the way of a good scam anyway?

Not that it's a total guy fest; Ellen Barkin vamps it up as Bank's smart and sexy house manager, and reminds us very much of Angie Dickinson, who strutted her tease in the original Ocean's 11. While these new guys still might not be able to carry the Rat Pack's jock straps in the coolness department, you can't imagine Frank and Dino getting all teary-eyed over a segment of Oprah, as Clooney and Brad Pitt do here.

Nay, these guys' style of rule-busting mockery is playful, and aimed just as inward as much as outward, which keeps the glibness in check. Not many pictures of this scale feel this dashed off, but it's done with such an inviting sense of casual cool that we might as well drop our guards and let it ride.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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