Wednesday 12 December 2018

Ocean's 8 movie review: All-female Ocean's not that greight

Women impress in heist spin-off but it's as forgettable as the other remakes, says Paul Whitington

Tech that: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8
Tech that: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Slick, glossy and entirely forgettable, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 films traded on the suave appeal of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and depicted an idealised underworld in which a brotherhood of impossibly handsome criminals found violence distasteful and often stole for lofty, high-minded reasons. They were based on an equally fanciful 1960s Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack movie, and there were three of them, but by the time Ocean's Thirteen arrived in the summer of 2007, the formula had begun to look a little stale.

Do we need an all-female version? It matters not because we have one, and Sandra Bullock leads an impressive ensemble of actresses, playing Debbie Ocean, younger sister of Clooney's character, Danny. He would appear to be dead, at least one hopes so because they've taken the liberty of burying him, but even his sister has her doubts, and mutters "you better be in there" when she visits his grave. A similarly slippery customer, Debbie has just been released from prison following a five-year stint for an elaborate con.

Has she learnt her lesson? Not at all: on her first afternoon out she robs a new outfit from a department store, cons her way into a fancy Manhattan hotel room and looks up her old friend and partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), who runs a small warehouse manufacturing watered-down vodka.

'Go big or go home' seems to be Debbie's motto, who has no time for such minor crimes and she tells Lou about her ambitious plan to steal a $150m Cartier diamond necklace. A grand ball is held each year at New York's Metropolitan Museum: if Cartier can be persuaded to lend it to one of the glamorous attendees, Debbie and her gang will swap it with a 3D printed fake and make off with the real sparklers. What could possibly go wrong?

Their plan will involve a mark, a histrionic actress called Daphne Kluger (played with commendable gusto by Anne Hathaway), and a fashion designer willing to take part in the scam. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is desperate enough: she used to be a big cheese in the 1990s but has just endured a disastrous launch of her new collection when Debbie and Lou approach her with their proposition.

She grabs at it like a drowning woman and persuades Kluger to let her dress her for the Met ball. The real necklace will be swapped for the fake one during the evening, and a team of expert robbers and hackers will ensure the sting goes according to plan. Steven Soderbergh's Oceans films blended smooth edits, split screens and an easy-listening soundtrack with tongue-in-cheek all-star casts. Elliott Gould is the only survivor from the original ensemble and shows up early on playing Danny Ocean's sage advisor Reuben Tishkoff to give Debbie and Ocean's 8 his blessing, as it were.

A strong cast here includes Sarah Paulson, whose character Tammy is a suburban mother with a garage full of fenced goods, Rihanna, who mutters her way through the film playing a master hacker, and Richard Armitage as a preening art dealer whose fulsome confession got Debbie imprisoned.

Sticking closely to Soderbergh's tried and tested formula, director Gary Ross unfolds this slender tale competently. Slick, know-it-all heist criminals who are always three steps ahead of the law can easily come across as smug and irritating, and Ocean's 8 is afflicted by a slight monotony of tone: it burbles along pleasantly enough without ever quite reaching a climax. It is, though, perfectly enjoyable, and seems to suggest that women are much better team players than men, less likely to become distracted by comparing the size of their genitals, more likely to get the job done.

Helena Bonham Carter is a lot of fun as the eccentric fashion designer, who's Irish by the way (the accent is variable), and James Cordon turns up late on playing a perhaps intentionally annoying insurance investigator.

But it's Anne Hathaway and her shouty, attention-seeking actress who ultimately steals the show.

Ocean's 8 (12A, 110mins) - 3 stars

Films coming soon...

The Happy Prince (Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Emily Watson); Kissing Candice (Anne Skelly, Ryan Lincoln, Conall Keating); In the Fade (Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Johannes Krisch).

Irish Independent

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