The most difficult part of doing repeat performances is keeping them fresh -- something that is hard to come by in a summer already saturated with trilogies. So even if you couldn't condone the criminal activities in their previous films, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) and the rest of their con men buddies (Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Shaobo Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac and Carl Reiner) at least appeared to have a good time pulling off their heists.
However there is nothing quite so entertaining about this latest caper. (Even the actors don't look as if they're having as much fun.) Perhaps that's because the criminals' motives are all about the settling of scores this time. Converging on Las Vegas, the guys are out to wreak revenge on Willy Banks (Al Pacino), an unscrupulous hotel owner who swindled their friend Rueben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) out of his share of a new high-rise casino being built on the Sin City Strip and caused the old man to suffer a debilitating heart attack.
Not about to let one of their own get duped, the gang of thieves plan a little comeuppance for Willy at the grand opening of the new gambling establishment, even though pulling off their vindictive stint means engaging the help of their former victim Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who's hotel safe they emptied in the first film.
With a seemingly impenetrable computer program to hack, a man-made earthquake to generate and some highly secure diamonds to steal, there should be plenty of tension building on the screen. But while all the elements appear to be in place for another high-rolling adventure, the escapade is half-baked at best. Every glitch is easily solved. Every obstacle readily conquered.
Although this romantic concept might work in movie land, the lack of believable conflict makes it hard for audiences to truly engage with the characters. Fortunately the film tempers the content found in the prequels. Language contains infrequent scatological slang, vulgarities and profanities. Sexual content finds Linus employing a pheromone-style ingredient to seduce Willy's cleavage-baring assistant (Ellen Barkin), but their interactions are limited to kissing and suggestive dialogue. As well, violence is aimed at property rather than people.
Still, despite a long list of Hollywood heavyweights in the credits (including Oprah Winfrey), Ocean's Thirteen proves that even a soiree of powerful purloiners doesn't guarantee a good time for audiences, especially when the headliners seem to have left their party hats at home.