It’s a matter of simple math. Take Ocean’s Eleven, subtract three, and you get Ocean’s Eight, a lesser spinoff that attempts to continue the heist series while transitioning to an all-female cast.
The trendy gender swap isn’t the issue, as the new octet of unscrupulous con women has plenty of chemistry and charisma, but rather the formula that worked thrice now seems more familiar than fresh.
The film opens with the release from prison of Debbie (Sandra Bullock), the younger sister of deceased criminal mastermind Danny Ocean from the prior films. Despite promises to stay clean, she’s ready to embark on an elaborate high-profile plot to steal a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace being worn by a starlet (Anne Hathaway) at the annual gala for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Debbie carefully picks a handful of collaborators for weeks of intensive planning and preparation leading up to the event, including her regular collaborators (Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson), a jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a hacker (Rihanna), a fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter), and a street hustler (Awkwafina). Naturally, the scheme doesn’t come without complications.
The screenplay by director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and newcomer Olivia Milch features some clever trickery and mischief, such as an opening bit of brazen larceny by Debbie that will leave upscale retail shoppers shaking their collective heads.
The ensemble cast obviously is having fun, while in many cases (such as Blanchett) playing against type. The restaging of the Met Gala includes numerous cameo appearances, as well as some playful nods to characters from Steven Soderbergh’s previous trilogy.
The slick and stylish film maintains a breezy pace without taking itself too seriously. The buildup and execution of the climactic caper is at least staged with flair, even if it doesn’t always maximize its suspense.
However, the film tries to coast on the personalities of its stars while skimping on plot intricacies. Despite Debbie’s sales pitch, you never get the sense that these crooks could ever come close to pulling off this job — nobody could — even while watching them in action. Motives remain cloudy, and there’s no sense of conviction to balance out the inevitable coincidences.
Maybe that’s beside the point. Yet with nobody left to root for and few surprises along the way, the protagonists walk away with a fortune while moviegoers are left feeling robbed.