No Sudden Move, 2021.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Starring Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Amy Seimetz, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw, Noah Jupe, Matt Damon, Bill Duke, Craig muMs Grant, Byron Bowers, Hugh Maguire, Claudia Russell, Javon Anderson, Lauren LaStrada, Lauren Rys Martin, Lucy Holt, Tina Gloss, and Michael Adams.
A group of criminals are brought together under mysterious circumstances and have to work together to uncover what’s really going on when their simple job goes completely sideways.
Set during 1950’s Detroit, No Sudden Move sees three men with varying criminal backgrounds are hired by Jones (a rotund Brendan Fraser, practically unrecognizable since his The Mummy days, returning with more than enough bite and energy to garner up further enthusiasm for his upcoming Darren Aronofsky collaboration The Whale) to infiltrate a GM building to steal a critical unknown document. Those lowlifes include Don Cheadle’s Curt (recently released from jail and looking for a big score to leave the life behind for something better), Benicio Del Toro’s scheming and greedy Ronald, and Kieran Culkin’s Charley as arguably the most hotheaded and ruthless of the bunch.
Soon after getting acquainted with one another for the first time, they invade GM accountant Matt Wertz (David Harbour), who has access to his boss’s special green safe where the highly sought-after goods are stored. That’s not to say he knows the access code or has credentials to be there, but he is sleeping with his co-worker (Frankie Shaw) behind the backs of his loving wife Mary’s (Amy Seimetz) and their children (played by A Quiet Place breakout performer Noah Jupe and Lucy Holt). It’s supposed to be three hours of work maximum for thousands of dollars each, with one of them escorting Matt to the GM offices ensuring he comes away with the desired information, whereas the other two hold the family hostage at gunpoint, convincing them to go about the situation as a typical Monday.
Of course, not much goes as planned. However, the real surprise here is that legendary filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (directing from a script from Now You See Me scribe Ed Solomon) doesn’t stick with the home invasion angle for long. Instead, No Sudden Move swiftly branches off into something far more elaborately complex involving a combination of a high-level gangster’s butting book, personal and spousal baggage, racial injustices, and blueprints to ecological breakthroughs in automobile design (bolstered by some corporate villainy with subtle implications for the world we live in today).
More characters are introduced into the fold (a crime lord played by Ray Liotta and his abused wife played by Julia Fox that happens to be sleeping with one of the central characters, a detective played by Jon Hamm, Bill Duke as a rival gangster, and fellow Steven Soderbergh collaborator Matt Damon also shows up as a shady business tycoon) at such a rapid rate with the narrative itself veering off into so many different directions that it’s a magic trick the direction is able to hold it together and present things with cohesiveness and precision. The greater pleasantry is that considering none of these characters are necessarily idols; there is twisted joy in watching them repeatedly backstab one another. It should be pretty apparent that the plot is heading to a massive score of money for whatever lucky soul to come away from this mess unscathed, something that the script plays with essentially right up until the final frame. There’s so much going on here that Steven Soderbergh is undeniably having fun with the challenge of shaking up every 20 minutes who is on which side and who to kill off next.
This becomes exponentially more impressive after factoring in that Steven Soderbergh not only put together such a tantalizing ensemble during last year’s global health crisis and didn’t just shoot it inside a small quarantine bubble (Soderbergh once again wears multiple hats also serving as DOP and editor, capturing scenes from the usual raised and slanted oddball angles), but somehow made No Sudden Move into an experience that barely reflects the conditions of which it was shot under (aside from a few characters occasionally wearing masks to hide their identity).
It could be argued that the proceedings can sometimes feel a little dry (for cold-blooded killers, most of these characters are reasonably composed with the phone prioritizing slick storytelling over guns blazing) and that some of the political and racial subtexts are spread a little thin (although it should be admired how the true purpose of the narrative sneaks up during the ending and correlates with all the other crime going on). Still, Steven Soderbergh is so skilled at presentation and keeping a labyrinthine plot breezy fun that it’s all a riveting hoot. There is also the bonus that just about every significant screen presence here gets an exciting moment that feels earned. Nearly every move Steven Soderbergh makes here is a smooth one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com