Thu, 05 Jul 2018
Ocean’s 8 (12A)
Running time 1hr 50 min
HAS Ocean’s Eleven aged well? That’s really a matter of perspective. Fifteen years and two mediocre sequels later,
Steven Soderbergh’s caper remake remains a rollicking, occasionally grand entertainment, squeezing remarkably spirited performances out of a cast of aging A-and B-listers, yet it’s possessed of a glaring early-noughties optimism that’s bound to reduce even the mildly jaded to a fit of guffawing stupor. The British crime thriller has always had the edge over its cleaner, less cynical American cousin in terms of raw grit. Indeed, Soderbergh’s recent Logan Lucky marked a turn into meaner, infinitely less extravagant territory, giving the Hollywood heist movie an East End makeover. Ocean’s is, then, a fine time capsule – just take pains to leave any sense for irony or nuance at the door.
It was blisteringly macho, too, from Julia Roberts’ bit part to the ‘showstopping’ final-act stunt (spoiler: the robbers replace their haul with nudie bar flyers). This pseudo-sequel hopes to atone for the series’ lads’ mag sexism by cramming the screen with female talent – and, my, doesthis cast give the original a run for its chips. The ‘Ocean’ of the title, in case you were wondering, is Debbie (Sandra Bullock), sister of the (apparently) deceased Danny Ocean, a super-crook in her own right.
She’s been brainstorming The Perfect Crime while in the clink, one that might – just might – net her a $150,000,000 necklace.
Unlike in Danny’s case, Debbie’s not in it for love – there’s no estranged husband or boyfriend she’s hoping to win back with her newfound, ill-gotten fortune (in fact, the heist is motivated partly by a desire to spite her old flame, Richard Armitage’s treacherous art dealer). No, she’s in it for the money. And how’s she going to land that necklace? By getting a kick-ass all-woman crew on-side, of course.
Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and geek-rapper Awkwafina are parachuted in to aid Debbie in her dirty deed; as solo acts, they all shine, but this is a far cry from the ne’er-do-well chemistry of Ocean’s Eleven, with the gang making for anything other than a natural fit. Perhaps Soderbergh’s magic touch might’ve papered over some of the ensemble’s rougher patches, but he’s done a runner on the franchise, to be replaced as director by the more pedestrian Gary Ross. Ross keeps the project compact and well-paced, but it’s a very lopsided affair – by the end, this is
indisputably The Sandra Bullock Show, with Blanchett side-lined and Rihanna fighting with characteristic bombast to stay afloat. The whole thing’s a veritable safari of cameos, some (Dakota Fanning, Anna Wintour) decidedly more worthwhile than others (professional windbag James Corden pops up towards the end – but then he seems to pop up in everything nowadays).
Weirdly – this being an Ocean’s film – the low-key shenanigans of the first act play a lot better than the heist itself; there’s none of the urgency or pizzazz of the Soderbergh entries, and the twists and snags that serve to propel a plot like this forward don’t hit nearly as hard as they should. I went into this expecting a Beauvoirian action jaunt; instead, I got something strikingly reminiscent of the other Ocean’s sequels, clumsily repackaged for less credulous modern audiences.