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OCEAN’S 8 (2018) review

June 9, 2018



written by: Gary Ross and Olivia Milch
produced by: Steven Soderbergh and Susan Ekins
directed by: Gary Ross
rated: PG-13 (for language, drug use, and some suggestive content)
runtime: 110 min.
U.S. release date: June 8, 2018


Remember Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy? Warner Bros. Pictures is hoping you do. They’re also hoping you always wondered what those movies would be like if the titular criminal crew were gender-swapped. No, really. What if George Clooney was Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt was Cate Blanchett? Actually, I’d be open to that and, as it turns out, “Ocean’s Eight”, an attempt at building an expansion off a trilogy of films that were met with random receptions, is fun enough. The non-sequential sequel written by Gary Ross (who also directed) and Olivia Milch, is similar in appropriate ways and different enough in unexpected ways and it works 

After spending five years and eight months in a New Jersey prison, professional thief Debbie Ocean (Bullock) is released, having convinced authorities of her rehabilitaton and desire for a simple life. Not quite. Without missing a beat, she reunites with her partner-in-crime, Lou (Blanchett), sharing a plan to steal a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace during the annual Met Gala in New York City. Of course, they’ll need a crew, so they persuade and recruit Tammy (Sarah Paulson) a former colleague who specializes in organization and profiteering. To fill out their crew they’ll also need genius hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), sleight-of-hand master Constance (Awkwafina), jeweler maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), and fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), in order to target celebrity actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who’ll be wearing the target around her neck. The goal is to switch out the necklace with a fake undetected working around the festival’s high security and after a focused planning period where all the wrinkles are ironed out, the crew embark on their risky mission which relies on timing, precision and evasion.





Wait, there’s a Debbie Ocean? Apparently, Danny Ocean (who died in 2018, which is convenient for Clooney, but does anyone ever really die in a franchise-building universe?) had an estranged little sister and apparently the “business” runs in the family. Of course, we know the women will pull off the job, but the fun of a heist movie (and especially these “Ocean’s” movies) is all in how they’ll pull it off and how inevitable hiccups will be dealt with. Ulterior motives will be revealed, as mishaps and a few surprises within the heist unfold. Let’s be honest, the details of the heist will not be the draw here, it’s the curiosity of an all-female crew and whether or not any skepticism we have will have been warranted or dissipate completely.

All Ross has to do is mimic Soderbergh’s style and move the picture along at a nice pace and he does that just fine. The requirements are very similar to the duties required of Ron Howard on the latest Star Wars movie – create an entertaining movie that safely fits alongside what has come before it, have fun with it and nothing more. On that note, I’d love to see a woman helm any additional movies down the line (don’t kid yourself, there’ll be more), even though screenwriter Olivia Wilde (who’s recent film “Dude” can be found on Netflix) was involved here. Why not go all the way with the female-driven production?

The heist plans in all of the Ocean’s movies have been outlandish and “Eight” is no different. Where does Debbie and Lou get the money to fund their job? They incorporate hi-tech enhanced sunglasses, a fancy 3D printer and 007-level audio equipment, but it’s often a mystery where it was stolen from or how it was purchased. I know, don’t think too much when it comes to movies like this.

Just as it was cool to see Clooney and Pitt hang together with Damon and company in tow, it’s also fun to kick back and see the uncanny pairing of Bullock and Blanchett together with Bonham Carter and company. The two Oscar winners have a fun chemistry and watching them together, one can’t help but see the noticeable differences between a close partnership between two women compared to two men. You’d be hard pressed to come across a couple of hunky heterosexual dudes sitting close to each other at a restaurant, wiping food off one another’s chin or holding up a fork full of food to another’s mouth insisting on a taste, all while discussing the ins and outs of their proposed criminal endeavors. So, if a movie just gives us enjoyable scenes where Bullock and Blanchett are doing just that, well then I’m an easy sell.




Now although I’m always up for a movie a female-centric focus, there were a couple distractions here that had me scratching my head. The first one came with the opening scene, where we see the camera centered on a orange jumpsuit wearing Bullock talking to off-screen officials about how prison has reformed her. The distraction here is her make-up. I have a hard time believing an inmate would have a caked-on look even for their exit interview. I mean, maybe – I haven’t watched “Orange is the New Black”, so I’m not caught up on the outward appearance of female inmates – but up on the big-screen everything is magnified and I found the layered, over-applied look, for both Bullock and Blanchett (two people who do well with a “less is more” approach) to take me out of the  movie at times.


If there’s a standout performance in “Ocean’s Eight”, it’s got to be Hathaway, playing something of a send up of a vapid movie star, or at least the way in which media and gossip rags portray celebrities. While her character definitely has a self-admiring, narcissicistic disposition about her, Hathaway has a blast with it, basking in any compliments anyone is willing to offer her way. The ability to amplify how such a character is typically considered and yet eventually offer a surprising, yet understandable revelation, is a testament to the actor’s talent. Bullock and Bonham Carter are typically great exerting their comedy chops, but Hathaway was the real treat, making it seem like casting her was a real get. As for the always superb Blanchett, I really wish there was more time to get to know her character as she seemed really intriguing, but alas, it is called “Ocean’s Eight”.

As for the guys in the movie, of which there are few (not a complaint), the one character vital to the movie is an art dealer named Claude Becker (Richard Armitage, a long way from Middle Earth), a former flame of Debbie Ocean. His inclusion in the story offers motivation and background for Bullock’s titular role and how hew is eventually used is quite fun. After the success at the Met Gala, we also meet insurance fraud investigator John Frazier (James Corden, not annoying for a change), who has a past with the Ocean family and is looking into how the McGuffin was stolen. His sleuthing takes place during a third act that feels like an unnecessary coda to the climax, making it seem like the movie doesn’t quite know what shoes to put on for its exit. And if you’re well aware of the cast from the previous movies, you’ll notice a couple of actors popping up in cameos, but none of them are big enough names as to take away from these ladies.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that Ross does wind up reigniting this series, offering new personalities and different criminal interests, while maintaining the same devilish attitude, sprinkled with near-misses and small victories that leave the story right where these women had hoped and more.  Ross (whose best movie was “Pleasantville”) picks up the illegal business that Soderberg established and delivers an entertaining yarn and that’s something considered this a movie most people had probably rolled their eyes at – not just because it’s a gender-swap, but because it’s yet another attempt to maintain a brand in Hollywood.

Moviegoers may not have been receptive to an all-female group of specialists earlier this year in “Annihilation” (neither did Paramount) and, so far, that sci-fi thriller turned out to be one of the best movies of the year. My guess is audiences will be much more receptive to “Ocean’s Eight”, which will provide what they’re expecting and then some.







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