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Oceans Thirteen – uncool cool, marking time, selling us short

shades of mediocrity

shades of mediocrity

Oceans Thirteen – Steven Soderbergh

No guys it’s not enough to just turn up to get paid. You’re supposed to act. It is a truism that if you think you’re cool – you ain’t. The more you think it – the less you are. This film thinks it is but the acting and the lazy, laughable, laugh-free script, are about as cool as Prince Charles in a tutu.

Paradox: how can so many ‘A’ list talented actors play themselves and do it so badly? What’s to get wrong? Ellen Barkin (Abigail Sponder) is so embarrassingly bad you’re longing for a stray bullet to put her and us, out of our misery. I rate Eddie Izzard as a comic and actor. I’m a fan. But in the name of all that’s holy, what the hell is he trying to do here? Wrestling with a mysterious accent trapped somewhere between a Portuguese hairdresser and a Taiwanese paedophile, you wonder why they didn’t just go the whole hog and stick him in a dress. At least he would have looked less uncomfortable. Truth be told it’s not poor Eddie’s fault – his character is pointless and given only daft things to say.

I quite liked Soderbergh’s O11 re-make and O12 had its moments of tongue-in-cheek fun. But to extend the anatomical metaphor, O13 is more about heads and a place where the sun don’t shine. Danny Ocean (Clooney) and Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan (Cool – Rusty Ryan? – give me a break), team up again ostensibly for vengeance. Their friend Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould out-Fagining Alec Guinness) has been cynically screwed in a deal by Al Pacino’s ruthless super-casino mobster ‘Willie Bank’ (check it out if you think I’m making this up. I just hope it’s not a spoonerism). So a plan slightly less easy to understand than quantum theory and almost as believable, is devised that involves ripping off the dear old willie bank, sorry Willie Bank, for $500,000,000 in 3½ minutes of rigged gambling on every table, every game in the casino. Easy peasy I hear you say. Well this master-stroke of Willie-beating (ok, that’s the last one – I promise) requires isolating the state of the art casino security systems. Now there’s a stumper. To the rescue comes the massive earth-drill the French used to hack out their half of the Chunnel which is apparently knocking about on some nearby car lot. This is to simulate a low-key earthquake, knock out the power and evacuate the casino. La Drill a snip at $30,000,000. This is a bit rich – and they aren’t kidding – for Rusty Dan and Co however big the Willie they want to bring down (sorry – I lied). Enter Terry Benedict, Willie-hating rival mobster who just happens to be the guy our derring-do chums justifiably screwed in O12.

Pacino hams this all up with just the kind of brio he always uses to cover up crap scripts. And Barkin is in mercifully few scenes. The nice interplay in iand ibetween the super-cool, experienced Rusty Dan duo (sounds like a cowboy and Western act) and the wet-behind-the ears Linus (Damon) is thrown away here. Damon just keeps rushing into scenes every now and then as if to say – c’mon guys, gimme a line or two. And then turning up as some kind of Chinese valet in an ethnic stereotype that makes Tarantino’s Asian fight-fodder look politically correct. Donning a latex nose the size of Mount Rushmore, Linus seduces the middle aged Abigail with the aid of a dab of magic aftershave that of course turns a stupid woman into horny idiot at the first whiff. Tick off the stereotypes as you go along folks, there will be questions at the end. Don Cheadle freaks out underground until the earth moves. And Casey Affleck makes you wonder whether he really is the Affleck who can act.

I like trash. I don’t always want to leave the cinema suicidal with French philosophical angst. I enjoy tongue-in-cheek heist movies. I’m not snotty about a bit of fun flash and bouncy bling-bunging. But the sheer profligate waste of talent Soderbergh is guilty of here gets me mad. It’s as if they all got together for an easy pay-day and had so little respect for the punters that they couldn’t be bothered to write a proper screenplay or devise an even half-witted plot. Terry Benedict got screwed in O12 and Willie get’s screwed in O13 (which is an interesting concept). But it seems to me, after forking out my good money on O13 – Willie’s not the only one.

Good Night and Good Luck, Babel, Good Will Hunting, The Long Goodbye, Sea of Love, The Untouchables, Hotel Rwanda, Traffic and any one of a dozen Pacino films; get these out on DVD and remind yourself that Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Gould, Barkin, Garcia, Cheadle, Soderbergh and Pacino – all have real talent. That’s what a waste this paint-by-numbers rip-off is.

(July 2007)

2 Responses to “Oceans Thirteen – uncool cool, marking time, selling us short”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Well written. And I’m also not against meaningless fun films but I feel your pain 🙂

  2. Anshu

    Thanks for the comment. Glad you like the review.


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