The 2001 remake of "Ocean's Eleven" was one of my favorite films of that year. Slick, cool and fun, the jazzy remake offered a superb script and marvelous performances from the cast. The sequel, which used a script from a different movie that was in-development and tweaked for the "Ocean"'s characters. The result was a painfully dull film that strained to regain the cool and charm that the first movie was able to so effortlessly build up. The plot of "Twelve" was nonsense and the disappointing movie one of the worst of 2004.
The third film isn't a match for the first, but it's thankfully an improvement over the terrible film that was "Twelve". The movie opens with casino owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino) swindling original "Ocean's Eleven" member and former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) out of money he invested in a project. Deeply upset at losing his money and being played for a sucker, Reuben has a heart attack.
Upset by how Reuben was treated, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), and Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) bring the old gang back together in an attempt to ruin Banks, whose new hotel/casino is about to open. Willie's hotels have never gotten any less than a 5* rating, and that's one of the first things that Danny and his crew are going to make sure doesn't happen. However, in order to go through with their grand scheme of robbing and ruining Willie, they're going to need more funding then they've got, which will come from the least likely source: former foe Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who'd like to see Willie out of the picture. However, Benedict doesn't come aboard without a price.
"Ocean's Thirteen" takes its time and (the 45-60 minutes builds up every bit of the crime, step-by-step, in a manner that's not as smooth as the first film, but certainly better than the nonsense of the second), but it's still lively and well-acted, with the performers seeming like they're having fun again after the characters went overseas in the tedious second film. The "Ocean"'s films are pure fun, but it's little moments that are as entertaining as anything else in these pictures. In "Thirteen", one of the most hysterical bits involves Pitt's character catching Clooney's character getting teary after watching "Oprah". As they discuss their plans with the TV still going in the background, the two gradually both start getting into the show (Rusty: "Are they really going to build her a new home?") The Oprah bit pays off nicely at the end.
There's also a little thread in the film about how, with things like Supercomputers watching over every inch of a casino and the players within, there may not be a place in Vegas anymore for people like Danny Ocean. As John McClaine is now an "analog cop in a digital world" in the latest "Die Hard", Danny and his crew are described as “analog players in a digital world.” As Danny finds out, the code of conduct understood by those who "shook hands with Sinatra" has been forgotten by people like Banks. There's a nice hint of sorrow in the film's couple of slight discussions about how things have changed, and how the kind of old-world glitz and glamour that Danny and Rusty grew up with is now gone. This little portion of the movie isn't developed enough, but it results in some nice moments, such as one with Gould's character towards the close.
The movie ditches the leading ladies of the prior two films, as both Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones (the latter never really seemed like a good fit anyway) are gone. Eddie Izzard returns as Roman Nagel, a techie who helps the group get past the casino's remarkable security. Pacino comes in as casino owner Willie Banks, and the actor's mildly over-the-top effort is both entertaining and a right fit, as it plays off nicely against the sort of laid-back cool of the rest of the cast. Ellen Barkin also makes a very good impression as the second-in-command of Pacino's character. Andy Garcia doesn't have much to do, but seems to be having fun in his handful of scenes. Even Bob ("Super Dave Obsourne") Einstein gets a minor role as someone who I won't reveal.
Composer David Holmes also once again contributes a jazzy, fizzy score that's memorable, catchy and gives scenes a touch more momentum. For all three films, the composer's scores have not only been incredibly enjoyable, but they almost feel like another character. Once again, Soderberg (under the name Peter Andrews) serves as his own cinematographer, offering up one gorgeously composed 'scope shot after another as the camera glides through the casino like the highest of rollers. Soderberg takes the sleek, flawless surfaces of modern day Vegas and adds his own style and edge, resulting in a crisp, cool beauty that makes Vegas look more appealing than it does.
"Thirteen" isn't as memorable as the first and it's not as bad as the second, but despite being fluff, it's technically stellar fluff that's enjoyably acted. This is probably the last one of these films and the concept is a little thin, but I can't say I'd be against another if it will take the series in a new direction.
VIDEO: "Ocean's Thirteen" is presented in 2.35:1 (1080P/VC-1) on Blu-Ray and the results are around average. Director (and cinematographer) Soderberg's bold, colorful look looks even more vivid and over-the-top on the Blu-Ray edition. Sharpness and detail are improved only very slightly over the original DVD edition, and fine details are not resolved particularly well. Some scenes look mildly soft, even.
The grain present in the cinematography seems amplified on this presentation and there also noticable noise present during some scenes. Colors generally look okay, but the overly colorful look of the casino scenes can sometimes cross over into looking a bit oversaturated. Flesh tones can also look a bit off during some scenes, as well. Overall, while this Blu-Ray presentation looks sharper than the DVD by a bit, the presentation also takes the look of the film a little further beyond what appears to have been the intention.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack included on the Blu-Ray (same as the DVD) is fairly low-key, with the surrounds mainly employed to offer some mild ambience and reinforcement of the score. A few scenes (such as one in an elevator shaft) had the audio becoming more lively, but these were brief. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and a full, rich sounding score. The sound design isn't much to write home about, but it's still too bad that we don't get an uncompressed audio presentation here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is the same as on the DVD.
EXTRAS: The most interesting aspect of this release is the fact that it does include a couple of sizable exclusives - one is a commentary from director Steven Soderbergh and writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the other is a nearly 45-minute documentary called, "Masters of the Heist", which profiles 4 real-life major heists. The commentary is typical Soderberg, which - for those unfamiliar - means superbly informative and entertaining, as he and the writers provide a marvelous overview of the production. The documentary is also a pretty interesting watch, but also the kind of thing that most people will probably only want to watch once.
"Vegas: An Opulent Illusion" is a 22-minute documentary that offers a pretty fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes inner workings of modern casinos. While not having anything to do with the movie, I got caught up in this enjoyable featurette. "Jerry Weintraub: Walk and Talk" is a brief set tour and chat with the producer. Finally, we get a few short deleted scenes. A commentary would have been nice, but oh well.
Final Thoughts: "Ocean's Thirteen" doesn't quite capture the same magic as the first film, but it's a welcome improvement after the second film. The Blu-Ray edition offers passable image quality that improves upon the DVD in some ways, but looks slightly-to-mildly off in others. Audio quality is fine and the Blu-Ray offers a couple of good upgrades in the extras department. Fans of Soderberg's films may want to rent this one for the commentary, but those who already own the DVD edition don't need to upgrade.
The Film B