Gang is back for third caper in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ |

Gang is back for third caper in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’

Howie Nave

From left, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Shaobo Quin, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, George Clooney and Eddie Jemison star in "Ocean's Thirteen." (Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros. Pictures)

Time to roll out the dice one more time and hope that Lady Luck pays off in a big way for Clooney and Company. Granted, we have all heard that this is the “Summer of the Thirds” (“Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek The Third” and “Pirates” No. 3), but those movies have pretty much been for the kids or those who don’t have to think too hard (myself included) and just get entertained by all the snazzy special effects.

Enter “Ocean’s Thirteen.” Director Steven Soderbergh and actor/co-producer George Clooney have a lot riding on this movie after the pair’s misfiring with “The Good German” from last year. That film was shot in black and white (but could have been shot in all red since the movie left investors in that condition after all the receipts were counted up).

Even “Ocean’s Twelve,” although not a flop, failed to deliver the kind of excitement that the first one, “Ocean’s Eleven,” did. The first sequel had the guys just going for a bigger heist, but even after the reward it just didn’t seem fulfilling. Something was missing.

With “Ocean’s Thirteen,” this time out the writers (Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who also wrote the poker drama “Rounders”) not only hit the collective right note, but also gave the cast of cons a legitimate reason to return one more time.

The best part of watching the third installment is that we’re all familiar with the characters and don’t need the long explanation as to what their backgrounds or circumstances are that consumes so much of the story. In brief, if you haven’t seen at least the first caper, you would be wise to do so instead of having to fill in the blanks watching “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

When you think about movies such as “The Sting” or “The Godfather” movies, you realize that the biggest payoffs were not so much about the money, but about loyalty within the organization. After all, the mafia considers itself a family, and no one betrays the family, thereby keeping the trust within the tightly knit circle.

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Such is the case here with “Ocean’s Thirteen.” Simply put, it’s not about the heist, but about friendship that motivates the gang into getting back into the game. We’re introduced to a variety of new players this time, including the legendary Al Pacino as the slick casino honcho Willie Bank (cute last name, and so appropriate when you watch the movie). Turns out Willie has double-crossed Danny Ocean’s (Clooney) longtime friend and mentor, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). He was suckered so bad that he winds up in intensive care with a bad ticker. When Danny confronts Willie about his friend and asks him to give Reuben his due, Willie shrugs him off, which of course is a bad mistake for him. Suffice it to say Willie is going to be taken to the bank with a severe penalty for early withdrawals.

Another addition to the cast, Ellen Barkin as Willie’s second-in-command, was great casting in a comedic role — getting played, wondering who was setting up whom was a treat indeed. This time it’s Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) who gets to shine, not just making the moves on Willie’s property but also bringing in their one-time nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), to bankroll their project, since there’s no love lost between Terry and Willie Bank.

So what will it take to ruin Bank’s grand casino opening? Oh, man, you’ll have to see for yourself, but all I kept thinking about was that saying from “The Godfather: Part II” — “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” You never know when they might find a common ground with you, if anything.

It’s ironic, too, knowing that Andy Garcia had a part in “Godfather III.” How ironic, too, that Al Pacino (who was in all three “Godfather” movies) stars with Scott Cann in this movie, because he is the son of James Cann, whom Pacino first appeared with in 1972’s “The Godfather.” Wild, huh?

As with movies like this one, it’s the set-up and planning that makes for the best ride. We already get an idea as to who will get duped, but it’s the improbable odds and misfires that make the film worth seeing — that, and to see so many big-name actors having a good time in this movie. It’s almost like seeing the second coming of the Rat Pack, where one guy calls all his buddies to be in a movie, and they don’t have to worry about re-auditioning or getting bogged down with the finances. It’s like they were doing the movie just for fun so that they could all hang together.

And they’re all back, too (sans Julia Roberts), including Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner and, of course, Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, so there is continuity, which is rare by the time you get to the third outing. The addition of Britain’s Eddie Izzard was a nice touch, too.

— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.

Keepin’ it reel:

Now Playing: “Ocean’s Thirteen”

Starring: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Michael Mantell, Elliott Gould, Ray Xifo, Al Pacino, Adam Lazarre-White, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Shaobo Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Eddie Izzard, Maggie Rowe, Ellen Barkin, Kris Kane, Soledad St. Hilaire, Olga Sosnovska, Jerry Weintraub, Luis Chávez, Ivar Brogger, Alex Procopio, Armen Weitzman, Steven Lambert, Don McManus, Julian Sands, Jon Wellner and David Paymer

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Rated: PG-13 for some brief sensuality

Running time: Just over 2 hours

Howie gives it: 3.5 out of 5 bagels