The latest Soderbergh and friends outing has arrived on the big screen, and while it is overall a fun experience, I cannot call it a great movie. Calling it merely “good” would be much more accurate. It is a definite step up from its predecessor, but does not climb as high as the original remake.
I also think that this may have been the wrong time of year to release a film such as this. The whole big time scam setup, the plethora of stars, and the way it all plays out just makes me think it would have been better suited as a December release. This is especially true with the already high number of sequels that have hit the screens, and will continue to do so through the summer.
The crux of this outing is a fateful meeting between Elliot Gould’s Rueben Tishkoff and Al Pacino’s Willie Bank.
The pair were partnering on a new casino, but Willie had a different idea for the “partnership.” In other words, there was to be no partnership. The shock of this turn of events caused Rueben to suffer a massive heart attack. Now, this is considered to be just as bad — if not worse — then if Bank had shot him, and is not going to go unpunished. Enter Danny Ocean (Clooney). He rounds up the gang and together they set out to hurt Bank the best way they know how — in the wallet.
Together, the gang from the prior two films rejoin forces to rig slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and craps, all in the effort to make Willie Bank lose, well, his bank. How do they aim to do this seemingly impossible task? Well, they send one guy (Casey Affleck) off to rig the dice, another (Eddie Jemison) off to rig the card shufflers, Brad Pitt to do something to the slot machines, and someone doing something else to the roulette balls. There is also something about Bernie Mac and a domino game that isn’t all that well explained.
This caper film has moments of fun, but I felt I was kept in the dark for long stretches. When the plans came into play, I did not feel like I knew what they were doing. There was a lot of talking, but we are only given bits and pieces of the plot, of the caper, and of the reasoning. The vast majority of the hows and whys were left to off-camera conversations, not too mention how they got their hands on the tunneling machine, or how they got it tunneling under Vegas without anyone noticing.
Partway through this third outing, I pretty much gave up on trying to track the plot points and piece everything together. It all seemed to point towards a pointless exercise in futility. So, rather than pay attention to all of that, I decided to just sit back and enjoy the scenery and the collection of stars that turned out.
It really feels like a vanity project for Soderbergh and his team, like a bunch of stars decided to get together and make a movie. What kind of movie would be perfect for a large ensemble of stars? Why, a caper film of course. It requires a team of people to get things done. They get together and start shooting, making it up as they go along, working from a loose outline. Fun? Sure. Best way to make a good movie? Probably not.
The sad thing is that with so many stars, there did not seem like enough for all of them to do anything meaningful. Often, they end up getting stuck doing little more than sitting around. For example, the great Don Cheadle is left sitting around for much of the movie, watching the tunneler, or Bernie Mac who sells a domino game, or Scott Caan who is sent after Casey Affleck in Mexico. None of these guys do all that much. The story, as it is, just does not leave much room for everyone to do anything.
Bottomline: So, in the end, what you have is a movie peppered with big stars. On the surface it is plenty of fun, but once you scratch said surface the exercise begins to deflate as there is not much existing framework to support it. The performances are fun, many of the sequences are fun, and the movie looks very good. It is a prime example of a movie where the parts are greater than the whole. Worth watching, but not destined to be remembered.