It seemed like most of the world hated OCEAN’S 12. I always figured it was because it was too strange, but people say it was just too self-indulgent, they get mad watching all those guys having fun together and being cool. Which is weird because if that’s the case I’m not sure why they liked the first one. I mean what else are they supposed to do? Not have fun and wear cheap suits?
Anyway I felt lucky they were making a part 13, like they were doing it just for me and the elite few who still give a shit. But I was mistaken – actually they were making this for the other guys to make up for part 12. This is the same shit but dialed back a little, so they are having a little less fun and are not quite as cool because Matt Damon wears a fake nose in one part. It’s Steve Soderbergh’s most mainstream movie since ERIN BROCKOVICH, but not even as satisfying as that since it’s sequel number two and there’s no surprise factor at all. And you get a little sick of all their con man lingo and code words. For example, faking an earthquake is “an Irwin Allen.” I’m not sure what the name would be for making a fun but forgettable part 3, since most part 3s are widely hated except for Lord of the Rings or if it’s in 3-D. And they are in the problem of being a part 3 only I asked for (see the end of OCEAN’S 12 review above).
I guess the mainstream have forgiven them though, or are willing to give them a second chance at a sequel, because this theater was crowded. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but because of my negative past I live with a curse – I am doomed to always have the most annoying person in the theater sitting directly behind me. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an empty theater, this guy will walk in during the previews, scope the place out and decide that the perfect seat is directly behind me. In this case he was a middle aged dude with his adult son, a guy who doesn’t see very many movies. Throughout the movie he asked his son questions such as “What did he say?” and “I don’t get it” and “Who’s that guy?” and “I don’t get it – is he supposed to be gay?” But at the end he seemed happy with it. So congratulations people, you have your Oceans back.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this movie too. But this is the last gas in the tank, this one’s all burned out. They couldn’t repeat the same structure so this time the plot is not planning a heist or series of heists, they plan a series of tricks to rig Al Pacino (new asshole character)’s casino so that gamblers (not even them, but random gamblers) will win all his money. With this story there is no discipline to it, they spend a ridiculous amount of the front end just standing around talking about what they’re gonna do, because there is so much more to explain than if it was one heist. And there is no tension at all because at this point they are super heroes, there is nothing that will cause them to even break a sweat. Problems come up but they secretly already knew it was gonna come up and had the problem outsmarted, or if they didn’t already see it coming they are able to figure out an alternate plan and set it into motion within a minute or two of screen time.
Which is fine, but all I’m saying is this is not a real heist movie, or a serious crime picture. The first one wasn’t exactly either, but it had a realistic element of danger to it. Remember those thugs following them at the end? There are no serious threats like that here, it’s more of a cartoon. Instead of “Oh shit, is this gonna work?” you ask “What will they do next! Ha ha!” and although it’s usually funny there is alot of pretty obvious type of funny. We are talking funny fake mustaches more than actual cleverness.
But it’s fun to see these characters again and find out what wacky shenanigans they’re up to this time. The Ocean’s Ladies do not return (“It’s not their fight” Clooney says at the beginning) but everybody else is here, even a small appearance by The Night Fox. There is also a small element of loyalty and a code of honor at the core of the story, since they are doing this all to avenge Al Pacino for ripping off their buddy Reuben (Elliot Gould). And they all take it very personally. So that helps it go down better. Also, the funniest trick in the movie – not really a twist, just a joke – is at the end, so I couldn’t help but leave with a smile on my face.
And of course David Holmes is back and has made another great score. This time there’s not much ’70s feel, it goes further back. I still listen to that OCEAN’S 12 CD all the time, it’s all over the place like the movie is. This is one is more consistent to the point where I can forget what I’m listening to and think it’s actually the score from an old movie. But really it just came out. I was tricked.
Also you get more of that Soderbergh camera experimentation. It is not as stylistically playful as the second one or as elegant as the first one, but it has some good stuff in it. I don’t know if it was shot digitally or they just messed with it afterwards, but there is some great tweaking of colors. There’s a shot near the beginning of Brad Pitt walking toward an airplane, and you just see his head with a dark sky behind it but the sky is such a bizarre color of blue it looks psychedelic. I was also impressed by what appeared to be a normal helicopter shot but featured a non-existent building in the middle of the real Las Vegas. Not sure how they did that one.
If you like these movies you should see it, but don’t expect it to change your life. We all know Soderbergh is capable of more, so I hope he figures out another way to do successful mainstream pay-the-bills movies that are on par with his this-one’s-for-me movies quality-wise. I would especially love if he could figure out some way to do a little more serious crime movie with Clooney and Holmes. Or if not, at least let Holmes keep making soundtracks for non-existent Ocean’s sequels.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.