Cool stars keep film afloat

Posted: June 08, 2007

There's a new kid on the Las Vegas Strip. Depending on your point of view, The Bank, a luxury hotel and casino, looks like a red metalflake bowling trophy about 1,000 times larger than scale or a colossal triple-helix of ruby glass.

And, depending on your point of view, Ocean's Thirteen is the third retread of a remake or a flashy vehicle fueled by the starpower of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, smiles brighter than all the neon in Vegas.

Reuniting his posse plus one (Andy Garcia's Terry, previously Danny Ocean's adversary, is now an ally), Steven Soderbergh plunks his chips on 13 black. Since the house is rigged, there is a payoff.

Ocean's Thirteen follows Danny Ocean (Clooney), his sidekick Rusty Ryan (Pitt) and their buds as they load dice, decks and wheels against The Bank, a casino roughly the size of its owner's ego. They do this because casinisto Willie Bank (Al Pacino) has scammed their pal Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). And if The Bank fails, ownership reverts to Reuben.

Overplayed by a toupeed'n'tucked Pacino, Bank is made up to resemble Hollywood mogul Robert Evans, who produced Pacino in The Godfather. It's an inside joke for outsiders. As are the many references to the Corleone family saga.

Evocatively shot (by Soderbergh, under his nom de camera, Peter Andrews) with the saturated color of '60s film and accompanied by David Holmes' retro-mod score, Ocean's Thirteen is a boy's-night-out lark that girls can enjoy.

Speaking of the girls, Oprah gets a couple of shout-outs, but don't look for Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta-Jones, who wore the skirts in previous episodes of Ocean's. Here Ellen Barkin is the femme, Bank's right-hand woman, so distracted by the scent of Matt Damon that she doesn't notice the 13 ways his confederates are planning to rob her boss. While it's great to see Barkin back on screen, Soderbergh is less interested in what she has to offer above the neck than in her assets below.

Does the movie have any point apart from being a showcase for the golden glow and infinite cool of Clooney and Pitt? Danny and Rusty are dedicated to disproving the fellow who puts them down as "analog players in a digital age." For Ocean and his merry men, the fun is in showing how man can beat machine. The movie does a winning job of demonstrating how wit trumps technology every time.


Ocean's Thirteen *** (out of four stars)

Produced by Jerry Weintraub, directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, photography by Steven Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews).

Running time: 2 hours, 2 mins.

Rusty Ryan. . . Brad Pitt

Danny Ocean. . . George Clooney

Linus Caldwell. . . Matt Damon

Willie Bank. . . Al Pacino

Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, heavy petting)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

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