Make: Steven Soderbergh
Model: Heist Movies
Year: 2017, 2018
We all love when a plan goes well, when the details all come together like tiny cogs in a watch. And while a plan well executed is incredibly satisfying in real life, it does not lens itself well to dramatic tension. And so, the subjects of this week’s rebuild are two movies both following the execution of well-planned heists. All both movies were produced by Steven Soderbergh, one was a success, the other not so much.
In Logan Lucky, we follow two brothers from West Virginia as the plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway by teaming up with jailed explosives expert, Joe Bang, and his halfwit brothers, as well as their kid sister. While each member of the team brings a necessary skill to the team, they also bring a liability that could compromise the whole thing at any time. For example, Clyde Logan, the younger brother, is a talented con artist, but he only has one hand, while Jimmy Logan, the older brother is a talented schemer, he has a limp and a reputation that make him recognizable. Joe Bang is In-Car-Cer-A-Ted. At any moment, the whole job could go off the rails.
In Ocean’s 8, we follow Debbie Ocean as she puts together a team of expert thieves and con artists each with a set of necessary skills, and the whole plan goes off without a hitch, and in the end, goes even better than the audience was led to believe. At no point is the plan ever in jeopardy. And, well, it’s just so boring.
Our task is to rebuild Ocean’s 8 using the lessons of the excellent Logan Lucky to inject some real tension into the movie.
Debbie Ocean gets out of jail after convincing the parole board she had rehabilitated. After visiting Danny’s grave, she meets her old partner, Lou Miller, and tells her the job. “The Toussaint,” she says. “And anything else we can find along the way,” Lou says. “You’ve got to keep your greed under control. We stay focused this time,” Debbie replies. There’s a brief flashback of Lou getting sticky fingers, then getting handcuffed. Lou nods in agreement.
Debbie explains the whole plan: we are going to convince Cartier Jewelers to loan the Toussaint, a $150M diamond necklace, to Daphne Kluger, the mark, while she attends the Met Gala. While at the Gala, they will lift the necklace and swap it for a phony.
They will need help. First, they have to make Oliver their unwitting accomplice. They enlist the help of Rose Weil, a has-been designer with an enormous tax debt. “With that huge debt, won’t she draw scrutiny from the Feds?” Lou asks. “No choice,” Debbie answers.
Once Rose manages to land Daphne’s business, they need a jeweler, a hacker, and a pickpocket. The jeweler will cut up the necklace, so they can sell the gems, but the problem is she has severe allergies that give her sneezing fits at inopportune times. The hacker will gain access to the security system of the Met, but she has beef with Russian hackers who occasionally interfere with her activities. The pickpocket is going to lift the necklace at the Met Gala, but she is claustrophobic.
After an initial investigation of the necklace, Debbie and Lou realize they will need someone with high tech to help them pull off the caper. They call Tammy, a mom with a side hustle fencing high tech stolen goods. She agrees to join the job. Her problem is that her kids call her every day to check in with her.
Tammy gets hired by the Gala to help arrange everything. She also procures a 3D printer to make the phony replacement diamonds.
Debbie confronts her ex-boyfriend who betrayed her and sent her to prison. Lou finds out the whole job is about revenge. She won’t have it. The job is jeopardized by the petty revenge. Debbie agrees, but promises she won’t let her grudge get in the way. In fact it’s a critical part of the plan.
And so, everything goes according to plan up to the night of the event. Daphne is attending the event with necklace. Her date is Debbie’s ex, the patsy.
Lou is in charge of the kitchen, but she sees an exhibit featuring dozens of necklaces. Debbie reminds her to stay focused, and not draw attention. She smirks, and security comes walking into the exhibit, Lou shuffles back to the kitchen, where the jeweler is in place to receive the jewels once they’ve been taken. What the jeweler doesn’t know is that leeks are on the menu, and she is allergic. Meanwhile, the hacker is monitoring from the safe house, watching as the pickpocket waits the tables, delivering a poisoned soup to Daphne, then taking her place in the restroom. As she waits for Daphne, security starts to sweep and empty the restroom so they can protect the necklace. The pickpocket has to climb into a hole in the wall and hide behind a toilet paper dispenser. Her claustrophobia starts to freak her out, but she manages to avoid security. Security leaves and waits in the hall as Daphne rushes in a nd starts puking. The pickpocket dissolution emerges from her hiding spot and stumbles to Daphne’ stall, swipes the necklace and goes back behind the toilet paper dispenser and shimmies between the wall to the men’s room. She manages to get out, as the room shakes and she fights off a blackout. She finds a waiter on his way to the kitchen and slips the necklace under a stack of dishes on the waiter’s tray. He takes the tray to the kitchen and hands it got the jeweler. She starts to wash the dishes on the tray and finds the necklace. After she pockets the jewels, she holds up her hand and sees a rash starting to break out. In moments, her fingers start to swell. “Bathroom break!” she calls out.
Meanwhile, Daphne emerges from the restroom, and security immediately notices the necklace is missing and lock down the building. While the hacker is monitoring, the screen goes black, only to light up with a Russian flag. She smacks the computer and shouts, “Not now!” She starts clacking on her keyboard to get the Russians off her computer.
Debbie starts to demand status reports from the crew, and the team is in disarray. “Tammy, what’s happening?” Of course, Tammy is on the phone with her kids and can’t talk. Debbie is starting to freak out that her plan may be falling apart. She repositions near Daphne to see what is happening, but has to duck out of the way when her ex looks up and almost spots her. “Tammy!” Debbie demands. No answer. Then she asks for the hacker, who just finishes shutting down the Russians. The screen lights up and she sees security closing in on the jeweler’s location. The jeweler is fumbling with the jewels because of her swollen hands. The hacker announces the status at last, and Debbie calls for Tammy again. Tammy finally responds, saying she’s on it. She pulls the phony necklace from a fountain pool and announces that she’s found the original. Security calls off the search, and everyone gets out without being caught.
When the phony necklace is returned to Cartier and discovered to be a fake, the investigators turn immediately to Rose, the designer, because of her immense debt. As a result, the team is forced to enlist Daphne, the mark, to throw the investigators off by confirming Rose’s alibi.
Although Daphne is famous and not a thief, she is a talented actress. She confirms the alibi and even helps frame Debbie’s ex. At last, Debbie is disappointed because in order to frame her ex, she had to give up her share of the diamonds. At that point, Lou reveals that she shouldn’t worry because Lou was able to stay focused, managing to steal and replace every other necklace in the Met’s exhibit.
Movies are supposed to portray worst case scenarios. Ocean’s 8 doesn’t have enough worst case. It’s almost entirely best case. If we can inject some tension by giving the characters liabilities along with their assets, as was done in Logan Lucky, then Ocean’s 8 could have gone from ho-hum to super fun.