When trailers for Ocean’s Thirteen appeared in cinemas earlier in the year I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I couldn’t believe that a third installment of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise had been cranked out.

After all, how many times can you really watch the same group of guys pull of another heist?

When Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) is double crossed and left for dead by hotel tycoon Willy Bank (Al Pacino), Reuben’s close friends Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) decide to exact revenge. Assembling the same crew that outsmarted Tony Benedict (Andy Garcia) they plan to ruin (both financially and publicly) the launch of Bank’s new hotel in the heart of Las Vegas.

Ocean’s Twelve, while maintaining the same magnificent cast of actors, lost something with the film’s move from America to Europe. The confines of the casino in the first installment forced our gang of anti-heroes, and the audience, to concentrate on a singular and tangible task – getting Tony Benedict’s money.

The sequel, however, lost much of this drive and focus as a result of too many character threads and plot twists that didn’t seem in line with what the first film had set up. My least favourite moment from that film? Julia Roberts playing a character pretending to be Julia Roberts. I expected more of the same (if not worse) from Ocean’s Thirteen.

Ocean’s Thirteen can best be described as a highlights package of everything you’ve seen Danny Ocean and his crew get up to in their previous misadventures. There may be a new plan and villain but the film largely covers the same territory explored in the two previous installments; Go up against incredible odds to pull off an impossible con job. There should be no revelations here.

But, what is genuinely surprising, is the return to form the film exhibits. There’s nothing more enjoyable than expecting the worst and then being pleasantly surprised and I’m happy to say that Ocean’s Thirteen is a much better film than its predecessor.

Back in the casino environment that spawned Danny’s original team, the focus that was lost in Ocean’s Twelve returns and with it cohesiveness that makes the comedy so much stronger. Any trace of serious/dramatic plot developments has been removed and glossed over with a story that rapidly moves along (at least in the film’s opening half) like a montage on speed – if you don’t pay close attention you will get lost. Normally, this would be a problem (I’m all about strong character and narrative development) but having previously seen both Danny and Rusty’s relationships sabotaged and saved I was willing to forgo this element this time around.

Ellen Barkin steps into fill the void left by Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones. And, while her role may be advertised as being on par with those previous love interests, the character of Abigail Sponder has no depth and is only introduced to provide laughs for a hilarious seduction scene towards the end of the film. Nevertheless, Barkin impresses with her performance as Matt Damon lays on the charm.

As villain Willy Bank, Al Pacino comes across, initially, as being incredibly threatening but any sense of menace soon dissipates because of the approach Ocean’s Thirteen director Steven Soderbergh has decided to take. With comedy given preference this time around, Ocean’s teammates come across as way too sure of themselves and this diffuses the evil nature of Bank.

As with previous installments, Clooney and Pitt’s on-screen chemistry (the tough guy facade underlined with sensitivity) is explored in greater detail this time around and the moments they share on screen are superb to watch.

Ocean’s Thirteen is a somewhat messy but incredibly enjoyable film that surpasses Ocean’s Twelve. With poor offerings from other trilogy franchises in 2007 (Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider Man 3) it’s refreshing to finally see a film sequel that doesn’t stink and actually does a great job of tying a series up. Ocean’s Thirteen is great fun and that’s all it needs to be.

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