IN DEEP WA­TERS

This gen­der-switch­ing heist re­make is a crime in it­self.

Sunday Times - - Contents - By Tymon Smith

A fe­male-driven cast doesn’t save Ocean’s 8

It’s been 17 years since di­rec­tor Steven Soder­bergh (dur­ing his “re­make the films that made me” pe­riod) paid homage to the 1960 Frank Si­na­tra and the “Rat Pack” heist film Ocean’s 11 by up­dat­ing it and bring­ing to­gether the cream of early 21st-cen­tury male movie stars. Ocean’s Eleven was a re­sound­ing suc­cess — fast-paced, witty, stylish and giv­ing a wink to Hol­ly­wood’s past while firmly sat­is­fy­ing the au­di­ence de­mands of its fu­ture.

Prob­lem was, like so many things Hol­ly­wood of the 21st cen­tury, the Ocean’s team just didn’t know when to quit. And so we had to en­dure the in­creas­ingly slav­ish and slug­gishly less adept out­ings of the gang for two more films in which the main mo­ti­va­tion of every­one in­volved, like their love­able crim­i­nals, seemed to be noth­ing much more than to make an easy buck.

In the Hol­ly­wood of 2018, with the pres­sure on to cre­ate more pos­i­tive fe­male role mod­els and al­low fe­male stars the ac­cess they’ve been de­nied to the main­stream, it’s no sur­prise that every­one’s favourite heist fran­chise has been given the gen­der re­boot treat­ment.

That’s all very well, and were di­rec­tor Gary Ross’s film as smart, fun, en­ter­tain­ing and stylish as Soder­bergh’s “orig­i­nal”, there’d be noth­ing to do but com­pli­ment its un­de­ni­ably tal­ented cast for a job well done. Un­for­tu­nately, thanks to a com­plete lack of in­no­va­tion on the part of its di­rec­tor and a script that wastes the tal­ents of its en­sem­ble cast, Ocean’s 8 is a dis­ap­point­ing shadow of what it could have been.

This is not be­cause I’m view­ing it through the eyes of a white, male thir­tysome­thing, but rather be­cause I’m view­ing it with eyes.

On pa­per, the team­ing up of San­dra Bul­lock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hath­away, Mindy Kal­ing, Ri­hanna, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, Sarah Paul­son and Awk­wa­fina should pro­vide the per­fect meld of old, new, sharp, brainy, mul­tira­cial wom­an­hood that’s needed to give the pa­tri­archy the good kick­ing in its be­hind that it so sorely needs in the post-We­in­stein, -Spacey, -Cosby era. On film, how­ever, the prob­lems be­gin al­most from the start as the pre­dictable plot un­folds un­der the lazy eye of Ross’s pre­dom­i­nantly in­sipid di­rec­tion.

It has all the witty di­a­logue and backand-forth chem­istry of a Mor­mon high­school dance.

Deb­bie Ocean (Bul­lock), sis­ter of Clooney’s Danny from the Soder­bergh re­boot, has spent five years in jail plan­ning the per­fect heist. All she needs is to as­sem­ble a team with her for­mer part­ner Lou (Blanchett). To­gether they be­gin to re­cruit their co-con­spir­a­tors.

There’s tal­ented pro­curer Tammy (Paul­son), stoner and ace-hacker Nine Ball (Ri­hanna), di­a­mond ex­pert Amita (Kal­ing), has-been, down on her fi­nan­cial luck fash­ion de­signer (and cheap Vivi­enne West­wood par­ody) Rose Weil (Bon­ham Carter), and card­sharp­ing pick­pocket tomboy Con­stance (Awk­wa­fina).

The plan? Steal a $150mil­lion (R2-bil­lion) neck­lace from the House of Cartier that will be worn on the neck of seem­ingly feck­less celebrity Daphne Kluger (Hath­away) at the hottest so­cial event of the New York calendar, the Met Gala.

For Deb­bie’s own per­sonal cherry-on­the-top re­venge, this will also stick it to her slimy, con­niv­ing art-deal­ing ex-boyfriend Claude Becker (Richard Ar­mitage).

As we move from the fa­mil­iar and not par­tic­u­larly in­ven­tive re­cruit­ment phase through to the all too pre­dictable and frankly way too easy plan­ning phase, there’s lit­tle in the way of char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment or ten­sion be­tween the crew to make us feel that we haven’t seen all this be­fore and, dare I say it, done bet­ter.

By the time the not-so-clever and not nearly nail-bit­ing enough ac­tual ex­e­cu­tion phase ar­rives, it’s hard not to feel that every­one in­volved is phon­ing it in.

If you can’t see the fi­nal “old switcheroo” coming from a mile off then I can only as­sume it’s be­cause you fell asleep.

What should have been an op­por­tu­nity for a clever redo of an old genre is in­stead a mostly bor­ing, not very funny or mem­o­rable straight gen­der swap of tired tropes and one-di­men­sional char­ac­ters that does noth­ing for ei­ther it­self, the tal­ents of its cast or its au­di­ence.

In­stead of a re­boot it all reads like a bad par­ody.

Per­haps in the hands of a more en­thu­si­as­tic and in­spired di­rec­tor, Ocean’s 8 might have risen above be­ing just a yawn­ing heist film that hap­pens to place a crew of women at its cen­tre. Un­for­tu­nately, in the hands of Gary Ross, it’s noth­ing more, noth­ing less, noth­ing new and noth­ing worth wast­ing time on. LS

IN­STEAD OF A RE­BOOT IT ALL READS LIKE A BAD PAR­ODY

The cast of ’Ocean’s 8’, from left, San­dra Bul­lock, Cate Blanchett, Awk­wa­fina, Mindy Kal­ing, Ri­hanna, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, Anne Hath­away and Sarah Paul­son.

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