do you want from a movie featuring Danny Ocean and friends? Are you looking for
a clockwork heist, or a light glimpse into the cult of personality that
surrounds Clooney, Pitt, et al? Stung by the
dismissal of Ocean’s Twelve, Soderbergh and company have gone light on the
self-referential jokes (though they’re still here, most notably in the final
scene) and back to the mechanics of a massive heist, but they haven’t really decided to take things more seriously.

I want a mix of both. I enjoyed the heist of Ocean’s Eleven and the pure ‘famous
people at work’ aspect of the sequel. So in theory I should love Ocean’s
, and I certainly had a fantastic time watching it. The film is
so packed with gags and tiny bits of character that I got a giggle out of at
least every other scene. In the summer of 2007, full of leaden action flicks,
that counts for a lot.

yet the heist fan in me walked out uncertain and has become more…not irritated
at the film, but certainly less sold on it. So much so that I toyed with doing
a gimmick review with the ‘pure entertainment’ and ‘heist fan’ sides of my
brain duking it out. Terrible idea, I know, and I also know that the heist here
is the machinery, not the operator, and I should just forget it.


opens with no regard for those who haven’t seen one or both previous films. I respect
that. We don’t need an intro to Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty (Brad
Pitt), the right hand man who, once again, is always eating. In real cinematic
shorthand, we see their friend Rueben (Elliot Gould) get rooked in the hotel
biz by land shark Willie Bank (Al Pacino). Pacino’s skin is as leathery as the
dop kit my grandfather gave me years ago, so Rueben really should have seen it

betrayal gives the old rube a heart condition, and the rest of the crew decides
to hit Bank where it hurts in return. Namely, they want to bilk him of half a
billion, and ideally steal the diamonds that represent awards won by his other
hotels. To do so they enlist Eddie Izzard (again) and Andy Garcia, reluctantly.
Julia Roberts is MIA, but at least Vincent Cassel makes an appearance. No returning
player is given so much as a cursory introduction, but that’s the nature of
this film – fast and very brief from scene to scene.

admire a lot of things about the script by Brian Koppelman and David Levein,
most notably the way they’re able to leap nimbly from one member of the massive
cast to another. Don Cheadle has always seemed slighted in this series; here he
gets a lot more time, as do Casey Affleck and Scott Cann. (Their Mexican
subplot is, and I hate to use this word, but a hoot. Really.) If anything, the
script is almost too egalitarian in doling out time to the cast. You’ll likely
want more of Clooney and Pitt — the other guys are great fun, but they’re the
masterminds, and we should see more of them at work.

their part, Clooney and Pitt don’t really act, but mostly stand around and look
handsome and clever. I can’t really begrudge them that. Pacino and Ellen Barkin
(as Bank’s assistant) do bring at least some enthusiastic scenery chewing, and
Matt Damon continues his assault on the image of a very smart, slightly
paranoid guy who’s in just a few inches over his head.

don’t, however, admire the script exclusively. Two things bugged me, and this
is where I’ve got to speak as a huge heist fan. There’s never any sense that
the crew is going to fail, so you’ll not get any rush of elation when any one
part of the plan comes off properly. Since this movie is really is a deep bow
to our fascination with celebrity at work, that’s not a surprise. Soderbergh
& Co. know that we like these guys and are here to see them succeed.

man, gimme something. Unlike in the
first film, there’s no reveal, so there’s never a point where the audience is
meant to wonder how the plan is possibly going to work. (OK, there are a couple
of small reveals that an embryo would see coming.) There are moments where
things break down, but I never thought the roadblocks were real, and you
probably won’t either.

leads into my second complaint, which is that there’s no real crescendo to the
film. We’re bombarded with the minutiae of the heist plan from almost the first
frame, and that continues right until the end. The script is so OCD about
showing every little smart trick being pulled that at times it’s like watching Zodiac
again, only with characters who smile.

it is a smart script, you won’t be left in the dust by mentally checking out
for a moment or going to take a leak. The heist isn’t so terribly complicated;
there’s just a lot of it.

bombardment of detail continues until the movie ends, and without any big
dramatic moments or breaks. Koppelman and Levein have come up with some fun
ideas, but I would have sacrificed one or two in order to make room for an arc.
The action here, rapid-fire and entertaining as it is, is dangerously close to
a flat line.

I’d be happier with the procedural if this was a tribute to a classic like
Jules Dassin’s Rififi — in other words, if the heist was at least remotely
plausible. But Danny Ocean’s crew is a bunch of supermen with the money,
connections and time to accomplish seemingly anything. And no one in 2007 wants
to sit through a twenty minute drilling segment with no sound. I know this, I
really do.

criticisms started to filter in well after the film was over; during the
running time I really enjoyed myself. And I have a feeling that when I see
Ocean’s Thirteen again I’ll know the deal and won’t be so worried about the
MacGuffin-ish heist. This is a big Hollywood-style good time, and knowing that I’ll
be able to vicariously have the fun that everyone on screen is having, and that’s
exactly the idea.

out of 10