Third time's a charm. Ocean's Thirteen outshines the second installment, offering that certain breezy fun the original provided. Those cutie pies just work better in Vegas.
In this third installment, however, the boys aren't in the game for the business. No, this time it's personal. When one of their own, the irascible Reuben (Elliott Gould), suffers a heart attack after being double-crossed by malevolent hotel mogul Willie Bank (Al Pacino), Danny (George Clooney), Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon) and the rest of the gang decide to hit Bank where it hurts. They orchestrate it so not only will they ruin the hotelier financially by turning the tables on the precept that the house always wins, but also hurt Bank's pride by giving his big new Las Vegas hotel a bad rating. The Ocean crew even manages to rope in their old nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), on the scam since Benedict can't stand Bank or the monstrosity he has built on the Strip. The plan is a bit convoluted and seemingly damn near impossible, but the moral of the story is this: Mess with an Ocean, you get pummeled by the waves.
What has always made the Ocean's installments work is the freewheeling spirit and good-ol'-boy camaraderie from its eye-candy cast. Even though they are a bit more somber this time around--you know, worried about Reuben and all--the actors are still clearly enjoying themselves. Clooney and Pitt continue to be the suave ringleaders, finishing each other's sentences and commiserating over the problems they are having with their respective spouses/girlfriends--which, in turn, explains why Tess (Julia Roberts) and Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones) aren't in the movie. Basically, this "isn't their fight," and they aren't needed. Actually, it's Damon's Linus who gets a love interest--sort of. The usually green Linus gets a chance to prove his mettle by donning a disguise (a big fake nose, to be exact) and wooing Bank's second-in-command, the tough-as-nails Abigail Sponder, as part of the plan. She's played winningly by Ellen Barkin, who fits right into this gentleman's club. All the others are also in top form, proving they could keep making these movies and we'd never get tired of watching them play.
At this point in the Ocean's franchise, director Steven Soderbergh's work is pretty much done for him, which is a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. The good part (and I've said this before) is, Soderbergh definitely has one of the keenest eyes in the business and with Ocean's Thirteen, he makes you feel like you're coming home after spending the last movie floundering abroad. The guys are more at ease and the surroundings are comfortably familiar, while the massive, complicated, suspend-your-disbelief undertaking crackles and zings as it's being put into motion. Soderbergh also uses the split-screen technique to great effect. The bad thing is, we've seen it all before. Ocean's Thirteen doesn't really offer anything particularly new as far as what we've come to expect, and there are a few times Soderbergh seems to be phoning it in. But honestly, is there anything wrong with that? Not really. Not with this great cast that is aging and gelling like fine wine, bringing Sin City to its knees.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.