Although just a shadow of its former self, Ocean’s Eight aims to pick up the franchise where it left off, pursuing a fun heist with an all-female cast. But with a lack of the self-awareness that was sprinkled throughout the franchise’s origins, it comes off a tad hedonistic.
Let’s be frank about this – the Ocean’s films have always been about rooting for criminals. Fun heist movies are hardly a new thing, but the Soderbergh films brought a fresh and clever approach to the genre, with comedy, charm, and a bagful of twists and turns. But like other films in its genre, Ocean’s Eleven had something of a vigilante twist to it. Andy Garcia’s villain – though technically a victim – is hardly a good man, which gives a sympathetic edge to Danny Ocean’s character. The same goes for other heist stories. In The Italian Job, criminals aim for revenge against a murdering traitor. Leverage features a team of heist professionals who rip off the bad guys. The list goes on.
Enter Ocean’s Eight, the all-female reboot led by Sandra Bullock (but also starring Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, *inhales* Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, and Awkwafina). Bullock is Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, who exits her five-year prison sentence itching to get back in the game, and instantly recruits a team to pull off the biggest heist since, well, the last big heist movie. The team plots to steal a massive diamond necklace by getting a bank to loan it out to a massive celebrity for a gala, then swapping it out with a fake.
But the plot itself is hardly relevant. It’s full of twists and turns, of course, although few if any of them are surprising. What fun the film does deliver is purely through the charisma of its actors, many of which have little to work with. Carter is fun as an awkward, bungling clothing designer, Blanchett is electric as always, Hathaway an absolute riot, Kaling down-to-earth and endearing. The problem with the ensemble here is largely in Debbie – she’s easily the least interesting of the bunch. Devoid of the humor and charm of George Clooney, several cast members outshine her, especially Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway. While Bullock can and has done good work, this role was a misfit for her, and would have been more fitting for one of the other cast members.
My bigger complaint, however, comes in the form of the heist’s motivations. Like I said above, some of the more compelling contributions to the heist genre, particularly in recent years, comes from a more virtuous twist on the heist genre. These don’t necessarily have to be straight-laced do-gooders as we see in Leverage. They can also be – as is the case in Ocean’s Eleven – exposing the sliminess of a deceptive “villain.” This may not serve as the motivation for all of the characters, but it does at least give something virtuous to see in our suave criminals. Ocean’s Eight has none of that. The closest it comes is in a revenge subplot for the ex-partner that put Debbie behind bars, but even that feels like an afterthought. Instead, the film’s protagonists simply aim to steal as much as they can from a museum, and use that money to buy whatever lifestyle they want.
Although it has its moments of fun, there’s little else to recommend Ocean’s Eight. It is missing the crisp aesthetic style of Soderbergh’s direction, as well as the charisma of Clooney and Pitt, not to mention the moral framework – haphazard and shoddy as it is – of the original film. It is, if nothing else, more bold-faced about its sympathy for criminals, but that hardly is a glowing recommendation from a Christian worldview.