HomeMovies'No Sudden Move' Review: Character’s Ulterior Motives Drive Soderbergh’s Latest

‘No Sudden Move’ Review: Character’s Ulterior Motives Drive Soderbergh’s Latest

(L-r) BENICIO DEL TORO as Ronald Russo and DON CHEADLE as Curt Goynes in HBO Max and Warner Bros. Pictures’ crime drama NO SUDDEN MOVE.
Photo Credit: Claudette Barius

Director Steven Soderbergh has never been afraid to take risks. So, you know if he’s going to tread into noir fiction with his latest film, No Sudden Move, he’s going to find ways to make it stand out. It’s a story of low-level criminals brought together in 1954 Detroit to do what appears to be a simple job—until they start to piece together the motives of the people who hired them. Made during the pandemic, it makes sense that the actors Soderbergh chose to tell this story are some that you would expect to find in his “pod”, as the cast includes some frequent collaborators. Plus, he certainly has experience bringing heists with intricate plots to the screen. In a movie where nobody can trust each other, we can trust Soderbergh and his crew to deliver a layered and enthralling tale.

The screenplay by Ed Solomon slowly introduces our characters, none better than the opening sequence following Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) making his was through various Detroit neighborhoods. He’s always nervously looking around, except when he hides his face under a tilted hat when cars pass in certain neighborhoods. Maybe due to de facto segregation that would find him out of place, or perhaps due to the reputation he seems to have earned from a prior job gone wrong. He eventually makes his way to a meeting with Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser), who offers him a job as part of a 3-man team taking the family of Matt Wertz (David Harbour) hostage in their home while forcing Wertz to retrieve a document of some importance from his boss’s (Hugh Maguire) safe at the office.

Joining him on the job is Ronald Russo (Benicio Del Toro), who will stay with Goynes to watch Matt’s wife Mary (Amy Seimetz) and kids (Noah Jupe and Lucy Holt), and Charley (Kieran Culkin) who will accompany Wertz. There are no true protagonists to root for in this group, but thanks to some well-written dark humor, you find yourself sympathizing anyway, and clinging to their redeemable qualities. From the moment Russo meets Goynes, there is tension and mistrust, as well as a dash of racism, and Charley seems to know more about everyone and everything than both of them, which is more suspicious.

As one would expect, things don’t go as simply as they were explained, and when Detective Joe Finney (Jon Hamm) shows up and asks Mary why her family may have been targeted, her response may be the best line of the film. It’s not the only great exchange we see, however. For all the twists and turns the plot delivers, it’s seeing Seimetz play her role perfectly, Cheadle and Del Toro command the screen together, or Harbour truly embody a man acting out of desperation, that really ensure No Sudden Move makes an impression. It’s also really great seeing Fraser.

Soderbergh, of course, can’t help but go against the norm in regards to the cinematography choices, trading in an iPhone for really wide lenses that make things seem bendy. It’s a choice, albeit an odd one considering how it distorts the image most will see on a smaller screen. It can be somewhat cumbersome, seeing edges of the frame blur, and often compact in the middle, and while it doesn’t significantly diminish the movie quality, it doesn’t enhance it either. It seems more like something done for the sake of being irregular.

No Sudden Move might at times, like its characters, never be satisfied, introducing a lot of side plots and themes that can become overwhelming. There is a backstory of Goynes’ quest for quick cash being motivated by his desire to buy back land he lost while in prison. A gang war between Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta) and Aldrick Watkins (Bill Duke), where the only thing they agree on is wanting Russo and Goynes out of the picture, and everyone is having an affair with someone they absolutely shouldn’t be.

Everything is rooted in greed, both personal and corporate, and all run concurrent to each other, set against the backdrop of Detroit’s urban renewal. All of that is complex enough without all the double and triple crossing, but making your head spin helps to keep the audience absorbed until everyone’s motives are clear and all relevant parties classically converge in the final act.

The question that lingers for much of the film is what this document is that everyone wants so badly, and it’s one that’s does get answered brilliantly. While the answer leads to an unexpected and even broader element being included in the film, it’s still ultimately a MacGuffin included as a plot device to get the wheels spinning, and provide these characters a chance to turn on each other.

No Sudden Move succeeds on so many levels, and you can appreciate how it’s infused with as much humor as it is complex narrative. As with typical noir fiction, the protagonists are flawed and self-destructive. There is no goal for enlightenment to come by the end of the movie. Rather, we are to enjoy the truth in their performances which Soderbergh skillfully captures—even if we do have to watch it through a fishbowl at times.

No Sudden Move is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.


Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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