For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

NOW WHICH CONNECTIONS AM I SUPPOSED TO CHANGE?: Basher (Don Cheadle) is getting ready to rearrange some of the connections in order to create a simulated earthquake in the new casino which he and the rest of Danny Ocean's gang are planning to rob on its opening night.

Ocean's Thirteen: Clooney, Company Reconvene for Revenge in Crime Caper

Kam Williams

Upping the ante in terms of intrigue while toning down the action, Ocean's Thirteen offers an alternative to the special effects driven summer blockbusters. The boys are back in this cast that is filled with male matinee idols, with George Clooney as ringleader Danny Ocean, and that includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Elliott Gould, Shaobo Qin, Scott Caan, and Eddie Jemison. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts have been replaced by Ellen Barkin who is the only femme fatale in the movie.

The film's new villain is Al Pacino who plays Willy Bank, a ruthless mobster who has just bilked Reuben (Gould) of the millions he was planning to retire on. The rest of the rat pack prove that there is still honor among thieves. They decide to reunite to avenge the wrong that was done to their mentor who is bedridden as a result of the stress brought on by the double-cross.

Bank is about to launch a new casino on the strip in Las Vegas, so the gang decides to bankrupt him by rigging the games so that the house will lose $500 million on opening night. Furthermore, since they are aware of Bank's fondness for diamonds, they conspire to steal a quarter billion dollars worth of precious stones hidden away in an impregnable penthouse vault. As an added bonus, they plan to embarrass Bank by having the hotel receive low grades from the fussy inspector (David Paymer) who has been assigned to rate the quality of the hotel's services.

After brief sequences showing the team's reunion and establishing the crime that is about to be committed, ringleaders Danny and Rusty (Pitt) discover that they must devise a strategy that will defeat the new state-of-the-art surveillance system that is capable of reasoning like a human being. As the details of the scheme are finalized, they realize that their elaborate plan is going to be much more expensive than anticipated since it involves everything from simulating an earthquake to infiltrating a Mexican dice factory.

Therefore, they grudgingly ally themselves with former adversary Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), offering the crime boss a share of the profits in return for a sizable investment. He agrees and at this point the story divides into many parallel plots as each participant gets his assignment and prepares for D-Day.

Ladies man Linus (Matt Damon) wines and dines Abigail (Barkin), Willy's conniving confidante. Siblings Virgil (Affleck) and Turk (Caan) go undercover to sow seeds of discontent among employees on an assembly line in Mexico. Saul (Reiner) masquerades as a high roller from London, while Basher (Cheadle), from Britain, is put in charge of creating the artificial earthquake. Each of the rest infiltrates the casino as either an employee or guest, patiently awaiting to funnel the casino's money into their collective pockets at the appointed hour.

The appeal of Ocean's Thirteen rests not in the execution of the patently preposterous crime caper, but in the easygoing badinage among the members of the ensemble. There are few surprises as the story marches inexorably to its predictable finale, but it's nice being in on the joke at (probably) improvised moments such as when Clooney suggests to Pitt that he ought to settle down and have a couple of kids.

A comfortable diversion about male bonding that doesn't require anything of you except to sit back, relax, and enjoy some popcorn.

Very good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality. Running time: 122 minutes. Studio: Warner Brothers.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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