In the wake of 2016’s so-so all-female Ghostbusters, an all-female chapter of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise might feel to some like an also-ran—as if it’s more of a gimmick than anything else. But with Steven Soderbergh (who directed the 2000s’ George Clooney-led Ocean’s trilogy) on as executive producer and The Hunger Games’ Gary Ross in the director’s chair (plus the quasi-all-star female cast), there was plenty of potential for a fun caper in the same playful spirit of the previous three films in the series.
Though Ocean’s 8 does have its moments, particularly during finale’s big reveal, there’s surprisingly little in the way of a heartbeat for the first hour and a half. It’s a sharp contrast to the original films, all of which rode the chemistry of its cast through to the finish line. Remember Clooney and Brad Pitt’s hilarious, pithy conversations? Casey Affleck and Scott Caan ribbing each other mercilessly? And the steely Andy Garcia providing the perfect foil? All of it is missing in Ocean’s 8.
Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the sister of Clooney’s Danny, who, we learn, has recently passed away. She’s finishing up a five-year jail term, during which time she’s been plotting the perfect heist—one that also doubles as a slice of revenge against Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), the skeevy art dealer responsible for her incarceration.
Debbie’s first call when she gets paroled is to Lou (Cate Blanchett), a low-level criminal who spends her days bossing around a crew watering down wholesale vodka. The plan, in what may be the most needlessly convoluted plot of any of the Ocean’s films, is to steal the Toussaint, a $150 million Cartier necklace that has been locked in a vault for 50 years. Debbie and Lou recruit disgraced fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) to design a dress for the upcoming Met Gala and convince A-list actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) to wear it along with the necklace. The balance of the team is made up of hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson), jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), and street thief Constance (Awkwafina).
Individually, there’s no debating the talent, but when it’s all assembled, there’s not a lick of chemistry among any of them. The whole group seems to be just going through the motions, save for Hathaway, whose send-up of Hollywood divas is a rare bright spot. And since we all know the heist will eventually go off without a hitch, the fun is supposed to come via the set-up and the actors playing off each other. Alas, it’s all sorely lacking here, leaving us with a movie desperately in need of a pulse… not to mention a villain, which we never really get either.
Ross (who also co-wrote the draggy screenplay, alongside Olivia Milch) doesn’t offer much either. His version of the split-screens and camera wipes that Soderbergh executed to perfection in first three films of the series, come off more as sloppy imitation instead of anything that fits with film’s style. The only element, in fact, that gets a passing grade is Daniel Pemberton’s funky score.
The first three Ocean’s movies still stand as fun flicks to stop and watch when you trip on them, driven by a clever story and a cast that actually looks to be enjoying themselves. Ocean’s 8, though, pales in comparison, leaving you feel more than a little bit robbed.