Thirteen is not an Unlucky Number for These Guys

When in doubt, return to your roots.  It is not a bad plan of attack and one that Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney, and company deploy successfully in Ocean's Thirteen, the Ocean's franchise's third entry.  For the original film, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his band of thieves executed a heist in Las Vegas.  The film was fun, funny, and hugely entertaining.  The sequel, Ocean's Twelve, featured the gang planning a job in Europe, and was far less enjoyable of an experience.  In an effort to recapture some of the original's magic, for the most recent go round they returned to their Vegas roots.  

Directed by Soderbergh, the film has Ocean call in his friend Rusty (Brad Pitt), and subsequently the rest of the group, to help plot revenge against an evil casino owner that has harmed on of their won.  Said casino owner, Willie Bank (Al Pacino), cheated their friend, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), out of Tishkoff's part in a new hotel-casino.  Reuben is actually so distressed by being forced out of the casino that he suffers a breakdown and is unable to get out of bed for much of the film. 

Ocean and Rusty cannot let the slight against their friend go unanswered, so they call in the rest of the original gang to help them with their plans.  Before truly attacking Bank, the guys even offer Bank the chance to repent, to reinstall Reuben as a partner in the casino in exchange for which they will let bygones be bygones.  Bank refuses, suggesting that if Reuben can't handle the pressures of working in Vegas he should roll over and die.  The venom spewed by Bank towards Reuben clears they way for Ocean and company to do anything and everything in their power to make Bank pay.

The gang's goal is simple, unlike their first trip to Vegas they do not set out to gain personally by their actions, they solely wish to hurt Bank.  The plot that they devise is a multi-pronged attack designed to not only to stop Bank from winning an award he desperately covets for the new hotel, but that will also, with luck, have him lose enough money on opening night that he will lose control of the place altogether.

The scheme, as they devise it, revolves around rigging casino games to favor the players instead of the house.  Some of the most clever moments in the film are the explanations of exactly how the games are to be rigged.  However, as pointed out in the movie, the key to their schemes will be to get the casino guests to leave upon having won rather than keeping playing and giving their money back to the house.  Their plan – fake an earthquake.

Due to snags in this exit plan the boys find themselves needing additional finances and are forced to call in Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), their mark from the first film, in order to bankroll them.  Benedict is viable choice, the film explains, due to his own personal hatred of Bank.  However, in agreeing to join the group, Benedict also adds to the complexity of Ocean's plans by demanding an additional robbery (of some jewelry) be added to the scheme.

As with the other two Ocean's films, the plot is inordinately complex, with enough moving parts to make the entire proceeding highly improbable.  However, it's fun to watch the events unspool, however improbable they may be. 

Due to their plans, Ocean and company must harm one person that in now ay deserves it, the hotel reviewer.  In order to assure a bad review, they infest his room with bugs, give him good poisoning, and commit a number of other terrible acts towards him.  All of these acts are committed with the intent of harming Bank, and the boys do reward the reviewer at the end of the movie..

Pacino, as the smarmy Bank, is one of the highlights of the film.  He is so unrepentantly evil, in a truly corporate way, that watching him get taken for a ride is enjoyable.  The performance is one of Pacino's better ones in recent years.  He is great both controlling everyone around him and being controlled by Ocean.

The DVD contains few extra features.  There are a few extended/deleted scenes, a behind the scenes tour of the set, and a documentary on Las Vegas itself.

Ocean's Thirteen never quite gets back to the high points of the original film, but it certainly is more entertaining than the first sequel.  On the downside, there is little to no character development within Ocean's gang this outing, and to really understand who the vast majority of the people are it is essential that one see the first film.  It does, however, put the franchise back on the right track should they decide to put the band back together for Ocean's Fourteen.

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