Ocean's Thirteen reeks of backpedaling. In Ocean's Twelve, director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter George Nolfi took the action out of Vegas, trying for something outside the box and self-referential -- Julia Roberts playing a character who gets mistaken for the actual Julia Roberts? The response from critics and audiences was tepid, so here, Soderbergh reins things back in with a formula very similar to his original Ocean's Eleven. Fortunately, the formula works. In fact, the biggest complaint viewers may have is that they're sitting through the same movie again. Repetition of prior success is a fundamental (if regrettable) ingredient in the sequel business, but at least Ocean's Thirteen has the style to do it without making a viewer feel manipulated. What drew audiences to the original was the collection of fashionable and shiny stars having a rollicking good time, and that only expands outward here, with ever more name actors eager to join in the biggest party of Hollywood cool kids since...well, since Ocean's Twelve. The frenetic script (by franchise newcomers Brian Koppelman and David Levien) finds enough to do for most of the myriad characters, who are brought back together this time for vengeance -- to give casino mogul Willy Bank (Al Pacino, also making his Ocean's debut) a taste of his own medicine after he screws over avuncular Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), leading indirectly to Tishkoff's brink-of-death hospitalization. The heist plans rely on Rube Goldberg logic as much as ever, the wardrobes are just as smart, and the one-liners are just as withering. The overall package makes sure that Thirteen is not the unlucky number for this series that Twelve was. That quiet whimpering you hear in the corner, between the roulette wheel and that bored cocktail waitress? It's just the death of Soderbergh's will to experiment.
by Derek Armstrong review