Ocean's Thirteen shows that while you can counterfeit many things in Hollywood, you can't fake inspiration. It's better than the fiasco that was Ocean's Twelve — how could it not be? — but not as engaging as Ocean's Eleven. One of the film's characters sums it up best: "It's not a great idea, but it's an idea."
Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven was inspired in its own way — a lively, effervescent film that brought a little pleasure into a lot of lives. Ocean's Thirteen, by contrast, is no more than a reasonable facsimile. It may be the best copy money can buy, but it's a copy nevertheless, lacking the brio and elan that made the 2001 film such a treat.
How could it be otherwise? Director Soderbergh and his returning cast clearly enjoy working together, but these smooth and soulless films have become a Hollywood sinecure, a sure source of income requiring little heavy lifting.
The self-satisfied Ocean's Twelve was too diffuse, so the Thirteen script has gone back to basics. It's a straight-ahead, nuts-and-bolts effort, returning Danny Ocean and his gang to their let's-rob-a-Vegas-casino roots. The target this time is Willy Bank, played by Al Pacino channeling Phil Spector; he's the owner of a brand-new casino called, yes, The Bank.
But Ocean's Thirteen turns out to be mostly about the complex planning necessary for the gang's elaborate scam. That's entertaining up to a point, but sometimes it seems that the entire movie is an elaborate sleight-of-hand maneuver designed to divert us from how little is actually going on.
Also off-putting is the smugness that's one of the defining characteristics of Ocean's team. These guys are awfully stuck on themselves, and though they have reason to be content, it's hard to completely share in their happiness. Ocean's Thirteen will please those who delight in its persistent self-mythologizing, but the thrill of the original is gone, and nothing can bring it back.