This is as hateful a film as exists. But gee, it looks good doesn't it? Hollywood's shiniest actors, in the most expensive clothes, in the most opulent surroundings, mouthing the coolest dialogue. And a good thing too. Otherwise how would we know that sins are virtues?
This was the third in the franchise of glamorous heist flicks. I recall the first as pleasant enough - a clever heist with an appealing gang of underdogs. The second was one of those really detestable films that reveals at the last minute that everything you'd just watched was complete bullshit - shades of The Usual Suspects. Julia Roberts playing a chick playing Julia Roberts was a nadir of post-modern cleverness. Ocean's 13 is something else altogether. It's an exercise in humiliation, cynicism and viciousness. These are the parts that comprise the whole and the whole is hubris.
Sure, it's Al Pacino who perpetually plays himself now. And quite right - hero or villain, he's always fun to watch, even though he plays them both the same. The villain is NOT Elliot Gould. The director would have it that Gould is our (and every other character's) object of sympathy. Which is to say, sycophantic veneration. If you're familiar with the speeches given by American congressmen and women to AIPAC you'll have an idea of the kind of crawl-up-your-arse adoration we're in amongst here. It's sickening.
One wonders where this veneration of Gould came from. I don't recall any such thing in either of the first two films. And I certainly don't recall it from Oliver Twist. And that's who Gould is - he is Fagan rehabilitated. For those who thought Fagan was hard done by in Twist, here is the movie for you. Gould's Fagan is not a grasping villain teaching thievery to impressionable youths, with Newgate Gaol as his well-deserved punishment. The rightness of Gould having made a living from fraud, grifting and gambling is evident in the perfectly exquisite opulence in which he is embalmed. That he taught these skills to others is not a point of condemnation, but proof of the bigness of his heart. In a film such as this, Fagan's comeuppance at the hands of Pacino is no such thing. Instead it is an outrage - a sin against the greatest man who ever lived. That Gould wimped out and signed the dotted line at the mere hint of violence is nothing at all. Al Pacino must be punished and death is not good enough. How would a mere killing flatter our heroes' egos? Our heroes think big. The punishment inflicted upon the villain must at least be a twofer minimum. It is not enough to ruin and humiliate Pacino - our clothes-horse avengers must walk away with all his loot. Anything else would be to dishonour Fagan.
Pacino possesses a super-computer intelligence. It is god-like and unbeatable. But he worships a false idol. He flails around, flapping his arms, not understanding why his God has forsaken him. Fool! He should have worshipped our heroes. Only they possess the truth and the way. They shatter his God with a single electric thunderclap. How Old Testament - as always.
There is no point differentiating them. They are interchangeable caricatures. Here we see: a stuttering nerd; a Chinese acrobat; an old thespian; a black cockney; a Brad Pitt; a George Clooney. But really they are a swarm. That a dozen people impossibly play a hundred is cinematic proof of their greatness and of Fagan's genius. The secret of their success is to attack from a thousand fronts. And by way of deception thou shalt do war. And this is not just war - it's total war. Pacino's humiliation is to be utter. His punishment is biblical in proportion, complete with a plague of boils. It's as accurate a description of hubris as has ever existed in ninety minutes. Might the answer to a problem be an earthquake? No problem - Acts of God 'r' Us. No less than both the Channel Tunnel digging machines are employed to achieve this. Sure enough, a single of Fagan's graduates does with these machines what would ordinarily be done by 'teams' of lesser men. Best not to say 'hundreds' because no one would quite buy that - cut to the next scene!
So great is the ambition of these thieves that it is almost beyond human comprehension. No aspect of the plan is too small that it doesn't warrant a gargantuan monstering. If the question is loaded dice, the answer is to lead a strike by the underpaid Mexicans at the dice factory and hand out the molotov cocktails. This is to lay hands on some dice, you understand. It is unsurprising that the cinematic Mexicans are appreciative. But their appreciation is misplaced. Their increased pay was due solely to Fagan's money-men realising the pennies involved and coughing it up themselves. Why didn't they just do this to begin with? Who gives a shit. Don't tell the Mexicans that they were merely pawns in a sickening venal charade and won nothing but a legacy of ill-will and hatefulness that, we are left to presume, will scar their community for years. But forget that, our heroes needed a pair of dice.
What might our heroes do in regard to the question of denying Pacino his hotel's five-star rating? This is important apparently. How about they employ biological weapons? No, really! We are graphically shown the dreaded six-pointed bio-hazard symbol on the various bacteria, insects, and viruses that the innocent hotel judge will be subjected to. It's not enough that he has lice in his bed. Every part of his room is infected: his air-con is laced; his towels are smeared; his food is poisoned. Jesus Christ! What's wrong with these fucking people? This might just be the most pointlessly vicious act of rat-bastardry ever seen in cinema. A turd-smeared toilet would have sufficed to scotch the five-star rating. But these fuckers are the collective God of the Old Testament. If they say the judge is Job, his suffering is to be infinite. At the end of the film, on account of his being a good sport, ha ha, he is tossed some pennies. Our heroes are now richer than God. What do they care?
Let's not forget Ellen Barkin, Hollywood's asymmetrical sexpot. Her job is to be sexually humiliated. Fagan's trickster rightly reduces her to an idiot moaning creature in oestrus. As an Ellen Barkin fan, I publicly applaud the director for not having our Ellen actually get down on all fours and raise her arse in the air screaming, 'COME HITHER NOW!' (Or words to that effect beginning with F, M and NOW!) It's nice to know that he has a sense of restraint. No one is surprised our heroes are sexual uber-men. This is a Hollywood card game and 'sex' trumps 'love, honour and cherish'. There is no love in this film apart from that of our con-men for their Fagan. Filial piety is momentarily in the offing but - ha! - this is America and parents deserve nothing more than bickering and backbiting. Did they ever shower their offspring with wealth? No - only Fagan did that.
Otherwise, on the subject of 'heroes', what might be made of their assorted ethnicities? Very little per se. Every audience member belonging to the ethnicities displayed in this film can walk out of the cinema pleased that their guy looked good, got to utter some cool lines, and win. Best not to think about their adoration of Fagan or of their being a dozen in number. That Fagan is the patriarch and that they represent the twelve tribes is a step too far. A thought such as this would only occur to the aforementioned self-obsessed and me. And I dismiss it, ha!
Finally in a slow sideways camera track we see a parade of our heroes and their patriarch as they watch the fireworks that perfectly sum up their post-coital languor. Any resemblance to Israelis on the New Jersey shore watching the towers come down is purely coincidental. No one dances or high-fives here. They're too exhausted. Fucking someone like they just did is hard work, doncha know.
The fireworks of course are in their honour. They are Gods amongst men. Throughout the film they were omniscient and omnipresent. The size of their ambition has rendered them untouchable. Their crime was not just huge, it was inconceivable to mere mortals. So great were their falsehoods, and so great the number of them, that only they will ever possess the truth. All others will be consigned to scurrying about trying to figure out the impossible riddle. Why even bother? Best we merely attend church and worship their greatness. The church has a high ceiling, appropriately dim lighting and the requisite hushed audience. They look to the altar and are pleased to find that it is absent and replaced by a flickering light. Forget Jesus, forget humanity - Here we worship the liars who possess the truth.