The well-known and well-liked con artist, Danny Ocean, is gone. Or, at least, most people think he’s met his end and was laid to rest behind that beautiful slab of granite with his name etched in it. One of his last acts, apparently, was to send his old crime-connected compatriot , Rueben, to deliver a message to his sister Deb.
Don’t, Danny essentially says from beyond the grave. Just … don’t. Sure, the crime scheme Deb has in mind is solid and clever, but Danny felt it was sure to land Deb back in the slammer.
“He said you should give it up,” Rueben tells her.
Debbie Ocean, however, has never been one to give up on an idea she’s sunk her teeth into. And even a loved one’s parting words don’t give her pause. She’s convinced that her thieving gambit will work.
She’s spent years of her most recent incarceration envisioning every angle. Every detail. And each time her mental machinations ended up in failure, she’d rewind and think them through again. After five years, she’d thought of every conceivable loophole, fumble and slip-up; and she’s solved them all. Her plan is perfect. She’ll even be running a con within a con, but nobody else in her crew will need to know that.
Debbie’s BFF, Lou, doesn’t believe the plan could possibly be as flawless as Debbie thinks it is. Lou’s a gifted grifter herself, and she’s certain a jewel theft of the magnitude Deb’s thinking of will involve 20 or more people and hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed money. But Deb Ocean only smiles. “I need seven people and $20,000,” she declares. Her plan is measured, it’s focused. In 12 weeks, she assures Lou, they’ll all be banking a cool $16 million each.
Of course, Deb stepped out through the prison gates yesterday with only $45 in her pocket. But give her a day or two, and everything she needs will fall into place.
Danny’s not the only Ocean who knows how to ebb and flow.
Since this film showcases and glamorizes illegal activities—so much so that Deb hopes that her caper will “inspire that 8-year-old girl, lying in bed and dreaming of becoming a criminal”—there’s not much here to praise. But, I guess you can at least say that there’s honor among these thieves.
Deb toasts to her brother’s memory in a mausoleum with a handmade martini.
Throughout the film, women wear chic fashions that showcase their curves and accent their sexuality. The socialite Daphne Kluger, in particular, wears a number of outfits that aim to draw attention to her cleavage. We see her caressing and kissing a love interest. Later, she straddles and kisses that guy while dressed only in fairly sheer lingerie. Then she handcuffs him to the bed while he’s dressed only in his boxer shorts.
After her release from prison, Deb approaches the guy who helped get her convicted. She threatens him by pressing a sharpened “shiv” into his stomach and drawing it up to his exposed throat, but she doesn’t drive the weapon home. Armed guards swarm around threateningly with guns drawn when a valuable necklace goes missing.
One f-word and 10 s-words join a use of “a–.” We also hear “holy crap,” British profanities such as “bloody” and “b-gger,” as well as “p—ies” and “schmuck” mixed into the dialogue. God and Jesus’ names are each misused a handful of times.
The female crooks all tend to grab bottles or glasses of presumably alcoholic beverages when they gather together in a group. We see them imbibe beer, mixed drinks and champagne. And when the movie action shifts to the Met Gala at the center of the heist, quite a few participants drink wine and champagne.
The thief group’s online hacker, Nine Ball, smokes a thickly rolled marijuana joint on a number of occasions.
Within the first 10 minutes of the film, Debbie Ocean lies repeatedly, steals shopping bags full of clothes and makeup, and cons her way into an expensive hotel room. Consequence-free theft is her modus operandi, and the film applauds every second of it.
In like manner, her team of capable women are all focused on cheating, hacking, manipulating and thieving their way to their own version of a “happy” ending.
Back in the 1960s, the Ocean’s movie franchise plotted out its first big movie heist, featuring a bunch of nattily dressed, ice-coffee-cool male stars. Then in 2001, the inevitable remake of Ocean’s 11—or rather, Ocean’s Eleven—was cranked out, featuring yet another bunch of sharply dressed, attractive men scheming their way through an intricate Vegas swindle. After a couple forgettable sequels, it’s time for some felonious females to step up and join the well-dressed, crime-caper crowd.
That’s only fair, right?
The problem is, the Ocean’s con-artist construct is feeling woefully tapped out. And there are far more reasons to skip this pilfer pic then there are to see it.
Ocean’s Eight gathers the usual shady content suspects—foul lingo, illicit larceny, boozy tippling and light sensuality. Those things alone will make discerning viewers think twice before settling in with a bucket of popcorn. But on top of that is the fact that the moviemakers have pulled together an ensemble of very capable actresses and given them, pretty much, nothing to do.
There’s no witty repartee for them to juggle, no inventive cons for them to connive, no thrilling twists to untangle, no real positives to applaud. This whole jewel theft gambit is, well, blandly predictable and pointless. And since this cast of leading ladies represents, justifiably, the cream of today’s Hollywood crop, that might be this movie’s biggest crime.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.