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The Time Traveling Reviewer: Ocean’s 13

Written by: Jaime Kawamoto, special to CC2K

Image We here at CC2K enjoy reviewing and discussing movies from our past and present, but like any great visionaries, we strive for more.  So we’ve gone the extra mile, defied all the critics who said, “It can’t be done!” and did it.  We built a time machine.  It sounds incredible, but it’s true.  And the reason for all the time, money, and lab rats sacrificed in the name of science?  So we can send writers into the future to review movies BEFORE they’re released!  In this way, you can get first-hand insight, on what the blockbusters are going to be like, even before anyone has seen them. Later on, when the future has become the present, we will review these movies again, to see how accurate our time traveler has been.

In this piece, our brave pioneer giddily travels all the way to June 2007, where she gets a first look at the non-stop eye candy that is Ocean's 13.

Let’s get this out in the open.  I loved Ocean’s Twelve.  Good looking actors having fun in pretty places?  Julia Roberts playing a criminal’s wife playing Julia Roberts?  What’s not to love? So I was first in line at the local multiplex to see Ocean’s Thirteen.  It did not disappoint.

Now this is not Babel or Syriana or any of those other "Important Films" the "People Magazine’s Most Beautiful List" make to legitimize their careers.  No, this is the movie that gets them on that list.  Ocean’s Thirteen is a non stop party with George Clooney pumping the keg. 

For the last installment of the trilogy, director Steven Soderbergh has added a great new device – plot.  The film centers on Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang as they reunite to avenge one of their own.  It seems Reuben (Elliot Gould) has invested his money in a high rollers’ hotel/casino.  Before the casino opens, Reuben’s partner cuts him out of the deal and a lot of money.  It also seems that Reuben’s partner has double crossed Ocean’s main nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).  You will remember from the previous two films that Benedict does not take kindly to treachery.  He teams up with Danny and the rest to sink the new casino on opening night.  And then the fun begins.    

While it was tough to lose the great Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, there are new bigwigs to fill their shoes.  Al Pacino steps in as Willie Banks (he’s rich, get it?), the devious devil dividing Reuben and Benedict from their dough.  Ellen Barkin is at his side as his aide/love interest Abigail.  Because Clooney and Brad Pitt both had their turns in the romance department, Thirteen sees Matt Damon pitching woo.  His Linus falls for the more mature Abigail and he tries to win her away from Banks.  This movie is worth the price of admission simply for the great Sea of Love chemistry that Barkin and Pacino revive.   He looks like he’s going to devour her.  She could stop traffic with one lift of her eyebrow.  I have to give credit to Matt Damon for his ability to believably come between them.  Or maybe it’s just that Barkin is so sexy she could create sparks with a parking meter.  Either way, the romantic bits in this film are far hotter than anything we’ve seen in the franchise yet.  I almost wished this was the central plotline.  Almost.

For there is no lack of chemistry between the control freak Benedict and the natural leader Ocean as they attempt to work together.  They do this wonderful dance where Terry choreographs the steps for the crew but Danny is the only one that can get them to perform.  No matter how frustrated Terry gets, how much he wants to just crush the smarmy criminal, Danny’s plan for revenge is too perfect.  Benedict has to kowtow to him.  Ocean teases, taunts and tortures his former and future enemy relentlessly.  It is so fun to watch.  Clooney brings the right amounts of pleasure and cruelty to the table.  Garcia seems about ready to explode but manages to keep everything bubbling a hair’s breath beneath the surface.  Add in a strong cast of character actors (from the hilariously bumbling Casey Affleck/Scott Caan brothers to the needlessly British Don Cheadle demolitionist) and the two hours fly by.

Part of the reason this film works so well is the plot is backed up by strong themes – friendship, family and redemption.  These criminals have little else in the world but each other.  Danny and Rusty have lost their loves (I can’t tell you why because the reasons are great one liners best heard in context).  Reuben is one of their oldest friends.  These guys have all gone to hell and back together so they have this bond that, more or less, makes them family.  They bitch and moan at each other but at the end of the day, they’re willing to risk everything to get a “brother’s” dignity back.  Each one of the gang makes a bid for redemption, whether it be Benedict’s big offer to end their feud or Rusty small gesture of giving up his gluttonous ways (in case you didn’t notice, Rusty is eating in almost every scene in the first two movies).    

Nobody will ever call this movie Art.  It is, however, the best of the trilogy.  The acting is top notch, the script witty yet not glib and the direction what you would expect from America’s premiere auteur.  The fun went out of movies when it was decided good actors couldn’t do anything but Serious Films. It is a relief to finally have a collection of talented people making a movie for entertainment’s sake.