The Ocean's films of the noughties have routinely been marketed and thought of as men's stories. Sure the occasional superstar actress cropped up, but their point-of-view has always been strictly through the eyes of suave men doing suave things, suavely.
Following the dispiritingly controversial trend of gender-flipping male-oriented narratives, from the all-women Ghostbusters reboot or Bridesmaids and Girl's Trip being modelled off The Hangover, we come to the latest experiment with Ocean's 8.
It's a direct sequel to the noughties Ocean's Trilogy, with a few twists and turns directly relating to the narrative of that original story - along with some welcome cameos.
Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean — sister of George Clooney's Danny — a convict just-released when she decides to enact a five-years-in-the-making plan to steal an enormous diamond necklace off the neck of a superstar actress (Anne Hathaway, stealing every scene she's in) at New York's glitzy Met Gala.
Naturally, she needs a team.
What follows is a surface-level recreation of what was fondly remembered about both the original Ocean's series and Frank Sinatra's 60's version — exceptionally glamorous celebrities having a whole lot of fun and pulling off a labyrinthine scheme.
For the most part, Ocean's 8 rollicks along on wheels, assembling a team of cool, kooky characters (including Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling and highlight Awkwafina as a crafty pickpocket), and laying out in methodical but enjoyably snappy fashion the whirling gears that comprise that perfect heist.
The set-up drags a little, as does the film's denouement, but when the action starts, it's thrilling.
The cast has crackling chemistry, and bounce off each other with that same sense of fun Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts had back in the day.
What keeps Ocean's 8 from transcending above the line of serviceable, however, is a lack of strong directorial vision. Veteran director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) is at the helm here, and while he's a perfectly solid filmmaker, he lacks the whizz-bang invention and verve of master filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who managed to find the most interesting, fizzing way to shoot even the most thinly written sequences. His direction elevated the original trilogy from the staid 'superstar hangout' movie into something intoxicatingly fresh, particularly in trilogy highlight and cult-favourite Ocean's Twelve.
Ross' direction too often puts all the weight on the backs of his stars, with his camera aping Soderbergh's whips and zooms and pans but never capturing that same whirling energy.
What results is something entirely enjoyable and worthy, but one can't help but wonder what a stronger vision behind the camera may have produced.
Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna
Verdict: Frothy and fun, aided by a game cast having the time of their lives