Monday, June 11, 2007
Shaking Hands With Sinatra
Not fun—Driving along on a Saturday and suddenly noticing smoke coming from the front of your car as the temperature gage goes all the way up to H. A Sunday tow to Pep Boys and a pricey repair later and everything was taken care of. But still not fun.
Fun—Steven Soderbergh’s OCEAN’S movies. In watching the first two as a refresher course last week, I was surprised to find that OCEAN’S ELEVEN has not only aged just fine, in some ways it plays even better than I remembered. And I can’t hate OCEAN’S TWELVE like everyone else seems to. I’m totally cool with the whole anti-sequel, anti-heist, 60s French New Wave vibe they’re going for. Maybe it’s not exactly what everyone expected, but the hate is still a little harsh.
OCEAN’S THIRTEEN is easily the lightest, fluffiest of the three, which is probably saying something. ELEVEN has the Clooney-Roberts plotline and TWELVE had Pitt and Zeta-Jones which provided them with what emotional content they had, not that there was a huge amount. THIRTEEN doesn’t bother with such pretenses and there isn’t even the time-waster of getting everyone back together. They’re back, they formulate their plan, boom. On with the caper.
And it’s a fun ride as far as it goes. Old-school Vegas mogul Ruben Tishkoff (the returning Elliott Gould) has partnered with the unscrupulous Willie Bank (Al Pacino), gets screwed over, despite Tishkoff protesting that the men should have an automatic bond with each other due to having both shaken Sinatra’s hand. So our boys come back together to sabotage the opening of Bank’s deluxe Resort Casino for high-rollers, fittingly called The Bank.
In addition to Pacino and the usual gang, we also get Julian Sands, Bob Einstein, “Special Guest Stars” Eddie Izzard and David Paymer, maybe one or two familiar faces from earlier installments and Ellen Barkin, reunited with SEA OF LOVE co-star Pacino and looking amazing. The Bank could also be considered its own character as well, making use of amazing sets constructed on the Warner backlot and effects that place it in the middle of the strip, making it look like some sort of modern Las Vegas version of The Glass Tower from THE TOWERING INFERNO—done more convincingly, of course(fittingly, Irwin Allen even gets mentioned in dialogue). Considering the disdain for the first sequel, there is some follow-up to lingering plot threads including the continuation of a running joke involving producer Jerry Weintraub in a recurring role that has seemingly gotten way out of hand and even I’m not sure I could fully explain it.
Clooney, Pitt and Damon are in their expected groove and as enjoyable to watch as you’d expect. Carl Reiner spends his own subplot pretending to be an Englishman there to review the hotel and possibly bestow it with the ‘five-diamond’ award. Reiner plays it by affecting what must be the worst English accent since Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS and I guess there’s some sort of in-joke in that as well.
Pacino, extremely fun as Willie Bank, doesn’t overplay things as he’s done recently but instead seems to be aping Ron Liebman in his role. Maybe I’m imagining things, but just imagine Liebman here and you’ll see what I mean. Barkin, playing Cougar to Matt Damon and his false nose, doesn’t get to be the lead as the other actresses were in their installments but is totally game and very enjoyable to watch.
It’s a smooth ride and it goes down easy. There’s some great music too—I’m dying to know what plays over the Warner logo at the beginning. OCEAN’S THIRTEEN can’t in any way be called the best work of everyone involved, but it is an enjoyable reminder of what can be done in Hollywood when the goal is simply to produce an entertaining piece of pure elegance.