319. Ocean’s Thirteen

★★★

Betting large on its red hue and self-referential comedy, “Ocean’s Thirteen” mostly walks away on top with only a few chips lost. The last in Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” entree, this movie doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: a sly, 122-minute documentation of  thieving Vegas swagger.

Clooney reprises his role as master thief Danny Ocean, even more confident and capable than he appeared in past dishes. No longer with Julia Roberts’ Tess on his arm, Ocean can now dedicate both of his hands to picking pockets. This time, the pocket du jor belongs to Willy Bank (Al Pacino), a ruthless casino tyrant whom savagely screwed over one of the members of the original Eleven crew, Reuben (Elliott Gould). The main difference is that Clooney and crew aren’t looking to make a profit or pay a debt, the only winnings they care about are in the form of casino-served revenge.

The fun comes from being focused. Just as Ocean, Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon) and tow have their eyes on the prize, so does Soderbergh. His shots capture the pizazz of Vegas but don’t over shine with too much prestige. It’s a cool and confident form of filmmaking, one that would feel almost methodical if everything he did wasn’t so intuitive.

Sadly, this film does falter with the inclusion of two many characters, and no that isn’t a typo. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), the villains from the first two “Ocean’s” movies, make their way back yet again in an unfulfilling move that can only be described as misplaced fan service. Benedict was interesting in his own right in “Ocean’s Eleven,” and Toulour was a tolerable bore in “Ocean’s Twelve.” But seeing these characters come back for no reason except to be duped again is just a poorly-crafted storytelling play.

Pacino makes up for it, though. His Willy Bank wins our love and our loathing, an outspoken character with an actual personality. While Ocean slightly feared robing Benedict on fight night, Bank proved himself to be the true heavy hitter of the series. He ultimately fails, but the fact that we thought for a moment he might pull ahead of Ocean and his convict compadres speaks loads to his depth of character.

It’s a worthy end to a likable but not necessarily lovable trilogy. No one will go around and say that “Ocean’s Eleven” is one of their favorite films, nor will anyone devote a hefty amount of energy to argue that “Twelve” is better than “Thirteen,” or vice versa. These movies don’t strike a certain chord of passion within moviewatchers but they do resonate on a deeper frequency of leisure. They are the ultimate Saturday afternoon movie, the soothing Thursday night solace after cancelling plans with an obnoxious friend. A reassuring, warm glow from the flickering, neon lights.

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