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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 12:59 am

In the company of thieves

Ocean’s 13 returns to audience-friendly formula

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Untitled Document One of the things that made Ocean’s Eleven such fun was the feeling that director Stephen Soderbergh was raising the velvet rope and allowing us to hang out with his ultracool crew. For two breezy hours, we rubbed elbows with the hippest dudes on the planet. In contrast, Soderbergh’s follow-up, Ocean’s Twelve, sported an air of condescension, daring audiences to keep up with its needlessly convoluted plot.
It comes as no surprise that the third entry in the series, Ocean’s Thirteen, is an improvement over its predecessor. Not only does it return to the scene of the first film’s crime (the casinos of Las Vegas), but it also goes out of its way to please the audience, as if George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and the rest knew that they’d been guilty of cinematic elitism before. The group’s mentor, Reuben (Elliott Gould), finds himself on the short end of the bargaining stick and in the hospital after his new business partner, the renowned Willie Bank (Al Pacino), cuts him out of a deal with a bit too much force. Of course, seeing his beloved advisor laid up is all the reason Danny Ocean (Clooney) needs to reunite his compadres. What with Bank’s being such a big fish in Vegas, it’s easy for Ocean to figure out where to hit Bank where it will hurt the most: his new casino. You’d think that rigged slot machines, magnetized dice, and strategically placed insiders would be enough to pull off this scheme, but it wouldn’t be an Ocean’s film if it were that simple. Before screenwriters Brain Koppelman and David Levien are through, Ocean has to enlist the aid of his former nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to help finance a fake earthquake under the casino, ensure the theft of diamonds that Bank holds dear, and deny the casino a prestigious resort award. Although it would appear that the film is plot heavy, many of the narrative elements here are throwaway bits that we’ve seen before. Given that these movies are really exercises in style, the plot provides little more than an excuse for these characters to reunite and interact. After the last twist is turned and the final con pulled, you realize that you wouldn’t mind spending even more time with this company of thieves. 
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