Plenty of movies have all or nearly all-male casts, including war and combat films, and manly teams have long been called to duty in heist stories and impossible missions à la “Dirty Dozen.” Women sometimes play a role in these stories (if only as a photo tucked in a G.I.’s helmet), but often remain sidelined or absent. There have also been all-female movies, of course, including the 1939 comedy “The Women,” in which men, though physically absent, remain the subject of obsessive female interest. Men often hover in these female-dominated realms, perhaps because the men (and women) who make these movies can’t imagine taking them out of the picture.
That’s the case in “Ocean’s 8,” which includes an irritating subplot involving a very bad former lover. It’s needless narrative filler; worse, it dilutes the purity of the women’s work, their screen mission as it were. Part of the appeal of the “Ocean’s” movies is that their characters are excellent at their jobs, at slipping watches off wrists, cash out of vaults and all the irresistible, disreputable rest. Like the earlier movies, this one hews to the series doctrine that larceny is America’s favorite pastime. Here, as before, theft is a sexy calling and a near obligation, a service that the beautiful and the cool provide as they steal from the greedier, stupider and far less deserving.