Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Every Con Has Its Pros
Admittedly, I’m not really big on heist flicks. I enjoyed Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven (2001) just fine, namely because, back then, it was the auteur’s first dip into the studio pond, the film proving that he had what it takes to craft a slick, sophisticated star-studded blockbuster. By the time Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) hit multiplexes, however, I was starting to tire of the splashily franchise, having grown bored of the gang’s high-wire hijinks and George Clooney/ Danny Ocean’s overall smugness.
Now, eleven years later, and the formula is being rebooted and remixed for a new generation, this fourth Ocean’s outing coming off as exceedingly familiar, even if it’s being fronted by a cast of talented women, with three, yes, three Oscar winners, and released right in the midst of the #MeToo movement (although, the project was first announced back in 2015, way before any of the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light). To be blunt, just like 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters, the only reason why this agenda-driven movie exists is to push the idea that there aren’t enough female-lead films out there, which is utter bullshit when you stop and think about it. Just do a simple Google search to see how many female-centric franchises there actually are. But I digress.
This story focuses on Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the estranged sister of the apparently deceased Danny Ocean (George Clooney) — who’s nowhere to be seen this time around (sorry folks). We first meet Debbie when she’s released from prison, after having spent several years in the slammer for fraud, Debbie insisting that her new life will be completely con free. Within minutes, though, she’s back to her old tricks, the career criminal stealing a bunch of Bergdorf Goodman beauty products the instant she’s let loose into The Big Apple. You see, it turns out that Debbie had spent the last five years, eight months and twelve days formulating a highly sophisticated robbery that will require seven extremely skilled thieves to execute, the heist an over elaborate scheme to get revenge on her former partner/ love interest, art gallery curator Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), who’d ratted Debbie out to save his own skin.
After quickly reacquainting herself with her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), who’d been trying to make a living as a nightclub owner, serving watered down vodka to patrons, Debbie informs her of her latest target, 150 million dollars worth of diamonds, which she intends to steal off the neck of egotistical movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) by coaxing her into wearing the legendary Toussaint necklace (named after Cartier’s 1930s era creative director) at New York’s most coveted event, the Costume Institute Benefit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, aka the Met Gala, where Kluger will be center stage.
To get the job done the women turn to washed-up Irish fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), who’s in millions of dollars of debt, Debbie convincing her that they can help one another out, the designer’s reputation enabling her to get Kluger’s attention when it comes to choosing a stylist to dress her for the event. Next up, the girls enlist the aid of a dreadlocked computer whiz that works with a cue ball mouse and aptly goes by the nickname Nine Ball (Rihanna) — ‘What’s your real name?’ Bullock quips, to which the singer-songwriter sarcastically responds, ‘Eight Ball’ — and Amita (Mindy Kaling), a diamond expert who slaves away for her overbearing mother at a family owned jeweler. Debbie also convinces former fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson) to jump onboard, a seemingly normal suburban mother (of two) who combats her boredom by stealing massive amounts of home goods then selling them on the side, her garage chockfull of stolen merchandise. Last, but not least, the ladies recruit a beanie-wearing pickpocket who lives in Queens, the street thief, known as Constance (Awkwafina), helping them when it comes to sleight-of-hand tricks. So, who’s the eight member of the team? It’s not that difficult to figure out.
Written by director Gary Ross, Seabiscuit (2003), and up-and-comer Olivia Milch, Dude (2018), Ocean’s 8 sticks very closely to Soderbergh’s original (which itself was a remake of the 1960 movie starring Rat Pack-ers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin), this new film best described as a Sex in the City type chick flick, though trading the sex in for a sophisticated stanch and grab. In terms of the story, the stakes feel somewhat low — Debbie even goes out of her way to inform the others that prison isn’t nearly as bad as people say — while the meticulously timed heist lacks jeopardy (every problem the gals encounter is fixed within seconds), the aforementioned taking place behind the scenes of the Met Gala, with our protagonists disguised as either workers or guests. Audiences probably already know that everything’s going to turn out a-ok for our anti-heroes, so I guess the ‘thrill’ lies in seeing how they’re going to pull it off rather than if. Just on that, some of the flick’s gadgetry is a bit far-fetched, namely some high-tech glasses that double as scanners, which allow the user to print seamless 3D replicas of objects they scan, the ladies loading their printer with cubic zirconia to produce a phoney Toussaint.
It helps that Ross was able to shoot at luxurious real-life locations, including Cartier’s flagship store on 52nd Street, along with Vogue magazine’s headquarters at the World Trade Center (look out for a brief yet funny appearance by Vogue editor Anna Wintour) and, most importantly, at the Met Gala itself, these sites adding a real sense of authenticity to the project, this access allowing filmmakers to get cameos from attendees such as Katie Holmes, Serena Williams, Olivia Munn, Heidi Klum, rapper/ actor Common and various Jenners/ Kardashians. Heck, Ocean’s 8 is probably the closest many of us will ever get to attending the Gala itself. Costumes by Sarah Edwards, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), are also excellent, the designer crafting an array of glitzy gowns inspired by the exhibition’s theme of royalty, whilst director Ross employs a bunch of Venetian-blind transitions to keep things looking sleek, smooth and Soderbergh-esque.
Performances are mostly serviceable, with star power being one of the movie’s biggest selling points, the cast sharing a decent amount of chemistry as a collective. Sandra Bullock, Miss Congeniality (2000), is a bit wooden as our new Ocean, Debbie, whereas Cate Blanchett, Carol (2015), is cool, calm and relaxed as Lou (and seems to be enjoying herself), the Aussie actress, at one point, even going undercover as a chef in a halal food truck. Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada (2006), makes her presence felt (and looks like a million bucks doing so) as the vampy celebrity Daphne Kluger, whilst Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club (1999), ‘steals’ most of her scenes as the out-of-date fashion designer who’s steering towards bankruptcy. Awkwafina is funky as the sneaky pickpocket Constance — I’m sure she’ll do wonders in Crazy Rich Asians, which comes out later this year — whilst Rihanna, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), is better than expected as the über-chill hacker Nine Ball. Lastly, look out for James Corden, Into the Woods (2014), who shows up as an insurance fraud investigator late in the game, the English telly host adding some much needed pep to the third act.
Running for a brisk 110 minutes, Ocean’s 8 is light escapism at best, the film let down by an unexciting plot that’s very low on tension and suspense. With that said, if you wanna see a movie about a group of women who work together to outsmart ‘the man’ by using their wits, craftiness and chutzpah, you’ll probably dig this much more than I did. In all honesty, when Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’’ started up, I doubt any of the ladies at my preview screening cared that they were being fed a repackaged version of a story that’s been criminally overdone.
2.5 / 5 – Alright
Reviewed by Mr. Movie