Ocean's 8

 

            OK, this one stands in a tradition of savvy, slick heist movies, but let's forget all that, because comparisons are really unfair.  Different context, different treatment.  Even though the main character, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) pays homage to her con-man late brother, Danny Ocean, who set up those other heists, let's let this one stand on its own.

            Debbie Ocean has just been released from prison, doing five years plus for being the one caught holding the bag, when she wasn't the only one guilty.  The incarceration does not make her penitent.  Nor is there any rehabilitation or reformation.  She just had a lot of time to think about her next con, which begins by her pretending to be contrite before the parole board, then upon her release promptly engaging in some high-end shoplifting, which is actually an amusing sequence.

            Then Debbie looks up her old partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), and tells her about the grand plan to steal a stunning necklace at the swanky Met Gala dinner, soon to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It seems the current display is about the crown jewels of Europe's royalty, and that security will be high, which only intensifies the challenge.

            Let's see, they'll need a real jeweler who's a fence, a computer hacker, a nimble-fingered pickpocket, an insider on the museum staff, and a once-influential clothing designer.  Oh, and an uwitting mark who turns out to be more savvy than they thought.  Yes, there are little things that go wrong.  Like when they didn't think about how the prize necklace itself might have a security device, such as a custom magnet.  They also didn't plan on a couple of waiters stopping to chat with each other in the servcie hallway, when one of them was unwittingly carrying the purloined goods.  Debbie uses her German skills to play the indignant celebrity and stall for some valuable time.  Lou helps with the recruiting effort, and even has to coach some of the others in the fine art of enticing people and then make them think it's their idea.

            Despite a bevy of lovely and talented stars, the characters are not well enough developed for us to care about them.  We're not exactly rooting for the underdog here, as each of the thieves stand to gain millions if all should go smoothly.  And it does.  There's no betrayal, no sudden violence, no double-crossing, no raging incompetence or even petty jealousy.  This is one harmonious gang of thieves.  Too bad they have to resort to some viewer deception to put an asterisk on the ostensible job.  It's slick, yes, but not really charming.  There's no real romance.  No real love, either, other than the sisterhood of the traveling larceny.  There's just the characters' joy in putting the big con together, because they could.  And maybe a little dish of revenge, served cold.  But there's enough starpower in the cast to keep us mildly interested, even though we know the outcome beforehand.  The enjoyment has to be in watching them pulling it off with aplomb, and still look glamorous.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association