Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Elliot Gould, Andy Garcia, Ellen Barkin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner
YOU would have thought, given the way of the world, that putting Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney into a slick, sexy movie about con-men would be an automatic winner.
It may not have Johnny Depp, but then he was busy with some pirate thing and Ocean’s Thirteen is really about boys, toys and sounding like Frank Sinatra and his dubious friends.
So, what’s wrong with the movie? At this point, howls of anguish sound from people who just love movies that ooze glamour, money, diamond-hard women and sharp-as-razor men.
Stepping back a moment from that particular question let’s see how the sums stack up (which is the style of dialogue which comes with this movie).
Ocean’s Thirteen is the third in the franchise, featuring Clooney and his bunch of gifted grifters, forever intent on taking obscene amounts of money from people who, in reality, won’t miss it much.
Andy Garcia was the first ‘mark’, then they went to Europe (not a success) and finally they return to Las Vegas for a little revenge.
Old friend Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) is tricked by dishonest casino man Willie Banks (Al Pacino) and has a heart attack as a consequence.
The guys get together and come up with a plan to get revenge. So far so good. But here it starts getting complicated.
The whole point about a confidence trick is that you use the ‘mark’s’ own greed, give them something that’s just out of reach and then topple them when they are off balance.
Here the plot is to take lots of money off Mr Banks, steal his large collection of diamonds and also ruin his attempt to get top rating for his hotel.
This is complicated at the best of times – even more so when the golden rule of con-artists is broken. That is never get involved with someone you have already conned, which is what the gang do when money is short.
Add into this some minor details such as setting up an earthquake in Las Vegas using a Channel Tunnel boring machine, and you begin to get the impression that believability has been sacrificed for slick one-liners and looking cool.
There are obviously far more complications than this in the film, but you can see the film and try to work them out for yourself.
But, let’s go back to basics. A heist/con-trick film needs attractive and semi-virtuous heroes – tick.
It also needs nasty, villainous villains – tick.
And finally it needs a scheme that is complex, ingenious and believable – uh-uh.
So there it is wrapped up in one. This is a film that has all the flashy bits (stars, setting, glamour) but has gone too hi-tech for its own good.
The man in charge of all three of the Ocean films is director Steven Sonderburgh, who must take credit and knocks depending on what audiences around the world decide.
As for the acting, Pacino plays a fine heavy and Ellen Barkin plays his slightly raddled sidekick.
There is even a nice cameo from Eddie Izzard (sans nail polish).
The music and cinematography largely work well (even though trying to re-create 1960s split-screen images now looks very passé).
But after all that, you have to come back to the fault line right through the heart of the movie – even as a fantasy, it just doesn’t add up.