To call the Ocean’s films frivolous would be kind, implying that these arduous concoctions are somehow light on their proverbial feet. The prevailing mood is one of inconsequence, but these films also come off as insensitive, so beholden are they to a very specific kind of celebrity-culture tunnel vision. The navel-gazing continues in the series’s latest installment, Ocean’s Thirteen, which features an especially bilious running gag wherein a handlebar mustache-sporting Casey Affleck (slab-of-beef Scott Caan in tow) instigates a Zapata-invoked revolt among the wage slaves at a Mexcian dice factory. Luis Guzmán in a Che Guevara T-shirt this ain’t, but the offense is only deepened by the jest’s structural counterpart wherein George Clooney and Brad Pitt, playing cardboard cutout versions of themselves, shed crocodile tears during an episode of Oprah’s “Favorite Things.” The beloved Ms. Winfrey (whose extended cameo, on a Wildean scale of wit, rates slightly higher than the previous installment’s barrel-scraping Julia Roberts gag) figures prominently in the hastily resolved machinations of Ocean’s Thirteen, which are prompted by a revenge-fueled business rivalry between genial pimp-daddy Elliott Gould and “gimme [not quite] all ya got” king cobra Al Pacino (reunited with his Sea of Love sex kitten, now Botoxed bride of Frankenstein, Ellen Barkin). For the most part the film is all setup, a series of disconnected riffs and vignettes that might as well be scored to a continuous loop of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).” Post-Limey, Soderbergh’s visual sense has been in steady decline. It’s now clear that the decision to act as his own DP on each film since was a colossal miscalculation, revelatory of an intellectual and emotional bankruptcy that stems from both a misguided cinephilic nostalgia and an arrogant courting of current fashion. Thus, Matt Damon channels Jason Bourne in a throwaway blue-lit shaky cam sequence, Clooney and Pitt poke and prod each other about their off-screen love lives (the former telling the latter to go have some kids), and Soderbergh pushes his primary color fixation (Mexico=brown!) past the point of stylization into realms of absolute and total incoherence. One hundred twenty-two minutes later, I can only hope the mise non scene of this Vegas-set vapidity portends his going blind.
- Steven Soderbergh
- Brian Koppelman, David Levien
- Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Al Pacino, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Shaobo Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Eddie Izzard, Ellen Barkin, Julian Sands, David Paymer, Vincent Cassel, Andy Garcia, Oprah Winfrey
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