I’m slightly torn with this one. On the one hand, this sequel and numerical prequel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy is a perfectly serviceable and breezy summer flick that sees Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of the supposedly now-deceased Danny (George Clooney), take on the family mantle by planning a heist of her own. This involves stealing some expensive jewellery from actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Ball. And as “a ‘him’ gets noticed, a ‘her’ gets ignored… and for once we want to be ignored”, she assembles a ragtag bunch of female accomplices to pull off the caper. No prize for guessing how many of them there are.
On the other hand, while it isn’t quite the lazily genre-flipped dud it could have been, Ocean’s 8 does end up as deeply average. It’s not quite as fun as it should be and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Furthermore, the uninspired twists in the third act feel unearned, especially when they come off the back of a series of a largely thrill-deficient beats and a bizarrely anticlimactic heist centrepiece. The characters are noticeably underwritten and the finished product is altogether too reverent to the Soderbergh trilogy; it makes a point of continuously paying homage to the Clooney days and at times sees director Gary Ross attempting to blandly ape Soderbergh’s style.
Gratingly, this opinion might be reactionarily considered as misogynistic, since some of the film’s stars have recently blamed a lukewarm reception on the fact that film critics are overwhelmingly white and male. True, film reviewers are predominantly white men, and I fall into that category. It’s an important conversation that needs to be had, as the critic’s circle is certainly in need of greater diversity. Still, the flawed logic at work here – which suggests that a person’s gender or ethnic background dictates their appreciation of art – is weak at best, and gender-swap or no, Ocean’s 8 remains an innocuous mixed bag. Incidentally, to further quash a rickety argument, all the Ocean’s films bar the 1960s original and Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 have been underwhelming, and hiding behind an admittedly depressing statistic is a cheap tactic that does the film no favours. On the contrary, it tends to tip the scales towards the negative.
Ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that as entertaining as Ocean’s 8 can be, this stellar cast – which includes the likes of Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson and Mindy Kaling – deserved a tighter script and a less workmanlike direction to kickstart a new trilogy with a bang. The movie never fully traces its own path and, as it stands, I’m not sure how excited audiences will be to shell out for Ocean’s 9 and 10 on the basis of this soft reboot.
Ocean’s 8 | Directed by Gary Ross (US, 2018), with Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson. Starts June 21.
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