One last job. One last score. One last movie. From Bob Le Flambeur to Rififi to The Italian Job, the last job's always the hardest, the big score that's guaranteed to go tits up no matter how well planned or executed. After his first two caper flicks performed a smash 'n' grab raid on blockbuster conventions, Steven Soderbergh must have known that this, the final Ocean's movie, was gonna be a hard nut to crack.
What a difference three movies make. Ocean's Eleven pulled off the neat feat of repackaging the self-indulgent Rat Pack original into a sharper, cooler flick. Ocean's Twelve went European, upping the postmodern irony (remember that Julia Roberts skit?) like it was some nouvelle vague throwback. Ocean's Thirteen comes full circle, returning to the Vegas Strip in a move that's less lazy than simply dog-tired.
Even screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who penned high-stakes gambling flick Rounders) seem bushed… and they've only just joined the party. Barely bothering with a first act, they throw us straight into the planning as Danny Ocean (Clooney), Rusty (Brad Pitt) and the gentleman thieves set up a heist to ruin Al Pacino's egotistic casino king, Willy Bank. The aim? To break "The Bank" on his opening night. The reason? Because he double-crossed old-school lag Reuben (Elliott Gould). Will you care? Not a jot.
Instead of upping the stakes, Soderbergh cashes in his chips. Like any self-respecting high roller, though, he hides it well, putting on a show even as he's hitting bankruptcy. All the eye-catching Ocean's trademarks are here: ping-pong dialogue, breezy camera moves, quick-fire scenes that blend together like a well-mixed margarita. But there's a prevailing sense of boredom too. It's a heist in search of tension, the revenge premise so flimsy that the movie has nothing to play for. Shoehorned into the role of grandstanding villain, even Pacino seems to be waiting for a dose of dramatic Viagra.
Naturally, there's a few jokers in the pack: Clooney sniffling over a particularly poignant instalment of Oprah; Don Cheadle dressed in Evel Knievel regalia ("I'm a goddamn American icon!"); Matt Damon seducing Bank’s second-in-command Ellen Barkin with pheromones and a big schnozz; Brad 'n' George's banter ("Why don't you go and have a couple of kids?"). But add up all the good bits and you've got a thirty-minute movie.
Back in 2002 Soderbergh astounded us by breaking the blockbuster mould with a nod and a wink. The tragedy of Ocean's Thirteen is less that he can't be bothered to do it again, more that he doesn't seem to know how to anymore. Trapped by the very conventions it created, Ocean's Thirteen is a disappointing fake. One last job? Sure… but it's a hack job.