Ocean's Eight (United States, 2018)

June 07, 2018
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Ocean's Eight Poster

There are three rules for any self-respecting heist movie: (1) the caper should be interesting, convoluted, but easily explained/decoded at the end; (2) although no heist is airtight, the holes shouldn’t be apparent to the audience in real time (only afterward, when getting a late-night snack from the refrigerator); and (3) unless the movie is intended as an overt comedy, there should be suspense. Ocean’s Eight, a semi-continuation of the ’00s “franchise” helmed by Steven Soderbergh, misses the mark on two of three counts, succeeding only at #1. That makes for a surprisingly lackluster experience, unless you’re on hand primarily for the fun of seeing eight talented actresses interacting. (Admittedly, there is some appeal in that.)

I enjoyed Soderbergh’s remake of Ocean’s Eleven as well as the sequels Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. All three were superfluous but worked not only because of cast appeal/chemistry but because the capers were varied and effective. I’ll admit that none of these films has aged well. Viewed today, they come across as self-indulgent, bloated, and shallow. Ocean’s Eight attempts to replicate the elements that made the previous films successful with one important caveat/gimmick: all the heist participants are now women. Soderbergh remains involved but only as a producer. Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) has moved into the director’s chair.

Ocean’s Eight retains a paper-thin connection to Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels by linking Danny Ocean (R.I.P.) with this movie’s lead, his sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock). There’s also an appearance by “lesser” team member Elliot Gould, who was in Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen. This linkage gets the movie into trouble, however, because of an implied cameo that never happens. All signs point toward a “surprise” reveal; we expect it. When it doesn’t happen, it causes at least a little disappointment. Someone should have given the screenplay a polish to tone this down. (No need to sit through the end credits; there’s nothing there, either.)