Running Time: 120 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (mild coarse language, mild violence, mild sexual references)
Television channels trot out the original Oceans 11 whenever one of the new Oceans films appears. Probably a bad move except for curiosity, as the 1961 film moves so slowly for modern sensibilities and Frank Sinatra does not seem so charismatic and that Peter Lawford seems a stuffed shirt - though the screen does brighten up whenever Dean Martin turns up.
The remake was an extravaganza of a caper, again with a star cast, but with wittier dialogue and lots more technology to play with. Oceans 12 seemed self-indulgence on the part of the director and cast who hopped off to Europe for a sometimes incomprehensible plot and for mutual amusement which it was often difficult to share.
But, with the return to Las Vegas for Oceans 13, there is a tighter plot (which, however, with the instant arrival of desired equipment, including (twice) a huge tunnel digger that was used for the Channel tunnel - from the French side - with the range of computer technology at work, with instant communications and seemingly unlimited resources of income to pay for anything at a moment's notice, it is a plot very difficult to summarise, let alone comprehend). But, plot isn't everything. By focusing on Las Vegas and a clearly defined caper, this film gains in atmosphere and tension.
The cast is good with no one dominating. George Clooney is still the smooth Danny Ocean and leader but not outshining the rest. Brad Pitt is still the grinning planner and Matt Damon is effectively comic as the uptight Linus who finally gets a chance to cut loose, at least a little and for a moment. Don Cheadle has tones down his absurd Cockney accent. Everybody in the team gets a chance to star and do a set piece. Carl Reiner in his mid 80s enjoys putting on a false British accent to con the casino manager and Elliot Gould has to play victim of heart attack as well as of fraud.
This film also works well for its focused villain - and Andy Garcia's Terry Benedict the 11's first victim is back to land a hand. But Al Pacino is hard to beat as an egotistical, ruthless builder of casinos who defies everyone to bring him down. Ellen Barkin is his strict assistant who suddenly lets go of her primness.
So, it is all glitzy, high-powered, clever, glamorous and good-humoured. The two leads' eyes moisten as they watch Oprah, but Oprah is a good sport and provides a nice 'charity' ending at Terry Benedict's expense.
A word of praise must be given to David Paymer as the put-upon inspector of hotels who proves he is a good sport - and fully deserves his happy ending.
Village Roadshow Out June 14
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.