Friday, June 08, 2007

Cool dudes, uncool jobs

Ocean's Thirteen
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Michael Mantell, Elliott Gould, Al Pacino, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Shaobo Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Andy Garcia

Hollywood has this tendency to overstuff you with the same delicacies until you had had enough and ready to throw up. Sometimes back, it was the graphically gory films, Apocalypto, 300, The Hills Have Eyes. Then came the avalanche of sequels, ‘threequels,’ as they are popularly called, Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, all showing up for the third time around… Ocean’s Thirteen is the part of the same group.
Steven Soderbergh’s latest is probably the archetype of this whole ‘threequel’ thingy. For, the current film exits just for the heck of it, just because, the earlier two raked good moolah, the actors concerned agreed to do another film, and the producers had money flowing to back the project. After all, the film boasts of some of Hollywood’s best looking men, Don Cheadle included! Other things, story or screenplay are just incidental.

Soderbergh is the master of the art. No doubt about it. And the film works solely for this reason, George Clooney, at al notwithstanding.
The original Ocean’s Eleven is a 1960 heist film directed by Lewis Milestone starring Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean. Soderbergh’s 2001 film was a remake; the way the 2003 film The Italian Job was the remake of the 1969 movie. Then something happened. Its box office success warranted that a sequel should be made. In 2004, people paid for Ocean’s Twelve as well. Hence, here’s the ‘threequel.’
The common thread between Eleven and Twelve, was Andy Garcia. Ocean’s band steals money from him in the first one and struggles to return it in the next. This time too, Garcia lurks around, but not as an adversary, but as an accomplice. In one sense he’s number thirteen in Ocean’s band of smart and handsome conmen.
The adversary this time is Willie Bank (Al Pacino), an hotelier, one of the richest men in Las Vegas. Pacino provides a dignity to the role which otherwise would have appeared improbable in an already childish plotline. To say the plot is childish may be little harsh, but how do you appreciate a heist drama without the sophistication its demands. What the film lacks, desperately, is innovation. There’s no nail biting, ‘what will happen next’ sequences. Everything happens too smoothly, to believe.
First improbability, why would one of Ocean’s original eleven would go to work for hated Mr Bank? But Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) does, and ends up in the hospital after a heart attack. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) comes to cheer his old buddy up with his friends Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon), Basher (Don Cheadle) and others and decides to bring Bank down. You see revenge is a funny thing, and interesting than a simple heist job. So they plan to make Bank bankrupt on the day his new casino opens. And they do it, all too easily. Phew! Why then, all this hullabaloo?
The film scores on production design. It’s sleek, very posh, with the beautiful Las Vegas location giving ample support. And it’s filled with beautiful people, including two of the sexiest men alive, and with Clooney and his band having a ball. They are all friends in real life, and this shows on the screen.
And when it’s all over you are treated with a Frank Sinatra song. After all, he was the original Ocean!

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