'No Sudden Move' Review: Steven Soderbergh's Slick, Breezy Crime Caper Gets By With Its Game Cast

You can’t trust anybody these days in No Sudden Move, Steven Soderbergh‘s slick, breezy crime saga about a group of nefarious crooks from all walks of life chasing after the same MacGuffin. The prolific Soderbergh shot this star-studded caper during the pandemic, but this isn’t another of the filmmaker’s shot-on-the-fly iPhone movies. Working with his trusty cinematographer Peter Andrews (who is really just Soderbergh himself using a pseudonym), the filmmaker has put together something shadowy and stylish, frequently employing unexpected fish-eye lenses that warp the edges of the frame and keep our eyes glued to the center, where all the characters congregate to double-cross each other.

Detroit, 1955. Small-time crook Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle, thankfully not using the terrible cockney accent he employs in Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films) is fresh out of prison and he’s already lined up a shady job. A somewhat sinister man named Jones (a hefty, scene-stealing Brendan Fraser) wants him to get together with two other crooks for what sounds like a simple job. The three hoodlums are tasked with busting into the suburban home of Matt Wertz (David Harbour). Once inside, two of the guys will “babysit” Wertz’s wife (Amy Seimetz, chain-smoking and funny, if a bit underutilized) and kids while another takes Wertz to his office building. There, Wertz must retrieve a mysterious document from the safe of his boss.

Sounds simple, right? Well, not so fast. The two guys Curt joins up with – the constantly-drinking Ronald (Benicio del Toro) and the slick Charley (Kieran Culkin) – don’t seem to trust their new partner. Ronald in particular is standoffish to Curt at first glance, perhaps because Curt’s Black, or perhaps because Ronald doesn’t trust anyone. It’s hard to say.

Everything that could go wrong does. The document isn’t in the safe. Matt is having an affair with his boss’s secretary. And back at the house, someone ends up dead. Meanwhile, Soderbergh meticulously sets a series of characters in motion as if he were setting up a chessboard. There’s a lawman investigating organized crime (Jon Hamm). There’s shouty criminal Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Uncut Gems breakout Julia Fox, who seems very out of place in this film), with whom Ronald is having an affair. There’s an all-powerful gangster (Bill Duke) who has bad blood with Curt. All of these characters eventually come together in some way, with Ed Solomon‘s crackling script subtly weaving threads together until they form a bigger picture.

Despite occasional bursts of violence and threats of death, No Sudden Move is surprisingly carefree. The characters may be in danger, but we’re not, and like Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films, the real fun of this film is just watching great actors hang out and bounce off each other. Cheadle and del Toro are particularly delightful as two characters who don’t trust each other but have to work together anyway. And Harbour gets big laughs with his nervous, cheating family man (the biggest laugh in the film comes when Harbour straddles his boss, raises his fist, and shakily says, “I’m going to punch you now, sir!”).

Solomon’s script also works in some heavy real-world issues (to tell you what they are would spoil part of the film’s big mystery), reminding me of Steve McQueen’s criminally underrated Widows, which ingrained issues of class, race, and sexism into a slick heist flick. But No Sudden Move isn’t as serious as Widows, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to enjoy the film’s light, airy charms, but once it’s over, you’re left feeling a little empty. In a way, it’s actually impressive that Soderbergh has made a movie full of beatings, headshots, and public shootouts and somehow made it all comfortably low-stakes. This may not be one of Soderbergh’s best, but as always, the filmmaker’s unique work is worth watching.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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