Is it too much to ask that a heist movie actually be interesting? Apparently so, as the powerhouse team of Soderbergh and his Ocean’s cast have opted to live in a talent vacuum for the third instalment of the series, a dull, needlessly complex, too-cool-for-school affair that is even more guilty of entertaining the cast and not the audience than its predecessor (well, me at least – the plentiful box office tragically says otherwise). I cut Ocean’s Twelve some slack for at least trying a new formula that deprioritised the heist, but the third film’s combination of another Eleven-style Vegas heist and Twelve’s void of characterisation and wit cannot stand, especially since Soderbergh and Clooney have delivered such stellar work for years now.
Granted, Ocean’s Thirteen does change the group’s motive. Instead of money, this time it’s revenge, after Al Pacino’s casino mogul double-crosses original Elevener Elliot Gould, who then has a coronary. To even the scales, Clooney and co. hatch a scheme so that Pacino will lose billions on opening night thanks to technical know-how, lots of money, and also some kind of lust serum…. This premise would be fine if the movie actually featured any risk for the main characters. Only once do they hit a snag, and it proves inconsequential; otherwise we just watch as these charming people achieve everything they set out to without a hitch because they’re just so cool.
I feel quite lame for complaining about the lack of characterisation in a caper flick, but it is necessary, especially since we’re fairly used to the genre by now. Alas, the cast are essentially playing themselves, except this time they’re even smoother. Even Damon’s previously bumbling Linus knows just what he’s doing. This too could be forgiven if the plot was discernible beyond the basics (Vincent Cassel returns for a job I still haven’t got my head around) and if there were any good jokes. The best ones truly are in the trailer, and those weren’t very good, even in context. Look, Casey Affleck’s posing as a Mexican! Ellen Barkin has uncontrollable lust for Matt Damon in a big fake nose! Hilarity!
The series has always been a little different from similar beasts thanks to Soderbergh’s occasionally raw camerawork, the lack of slapstick, and the non-sequiturs, but it’s getting tired now. Clooney and Pitt reminiscing about how much Vegas has changed does not add colour and nuance, especially when after three movies the characters are still ciphers. It even sounds ludicrous when they refer to each other as ‘Rusty’ and ‘Danny’ since their characters’ slick lifestyle is so close to how we perceive Hollywood routine that the line between Clooney and Pitt and their vapid roles is almost completely blurred. And I’d be furious at how Pacino is wasted if he hadn’t already made such bad choices over the last five years (except for Angels in America). Instead it’s just disheartening.
I know this has not been a particularly constructive critique, but I haven’t wanted my time back this badly since A Night at the Museum, although this is more infuriating because of the talent involved. And now I hear they’re discussing a fourth one after initially claiming this would be the last. Oh, spare me. Do not see this movie.