by Nick L’Barrow
Director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s trilogy, Magic Mike) is always a filmmaker who will catch my interest when his latest film is released. Having written, directed, shot, and edited most of his feature film (usually under different pseudonyms), Soderbergh has a finessed and meticulous nature to constructing his films. At the same time, his films are also a hell of a lot of fun and never usually bogged down by the stringent filmmaking rules that he has. His distinct style of muted-yellow cinematography, quirky characters and scenarios, and the ability to draw in a phenomenal cast is on display in his latest film for HBOMax, No Sudden Move. But, even with all Soderbergh’s strengths, there are elements of No Sudden Move that do fall short of it being in the upper echelon of his filmography.
No Sudden Move is a darkly comedic, crime-thriller that follows three criminals, all unknown to each other before being brought in on a new job together. Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) has recently got out of prison, Ronald Russo (Benecio Del Toro) is a gruff, no-nonsense career crook and Charley (Kieran Culkin) is the only person in direct contact with the facilitator of this job. Their job is to take the family of Matt Wertz (David Harbour) hostage in order to obtain an unknown document they believe is in the family home. But when the situation goes sideways, the criminals are thrust into a deep web of conspiracies and lies in order to find out why they were chosen for this particular job.
Soderbergh’s ability to draw a cast in unprecedented in this movie – the cast is absolutely stacked. On top of the aforementioned four, this film stars: Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm, Julia Fox, Amy Seimetz, Noah Jupe , Frankie Shaw and a great cameo at the end that feels very on-the-Soderbergh-nose. Each actor in their respective roles and scenes is doing a reasonably good job with the script they’ve been given. However, no one (aside from Cheadle and Del Toro) stands out with a great performance, rather feeling like exacerbated versions of themselves playing dress-up as cops and crims in the 1980s.
This film is Cheadle and Del Toro’s movie. They have electric chemistry together and vary easily between confused criminals, to owning the situation they have been thrown into with bravado. With the majority of the first and third act revolving around these characters, it makes for a very entertaining watch when they’re on screen.
Soderbergh’s main strength as a director in No Sudden Move is the sharp cinematography mixed with incredibly tight, precise editing. A scene early on in the film that captures the initial uncertainty of the criminals and the family they’re holding hostage was completely captivating due to the finer details of what Soderbergh was showing us on screen and the quick cuts between characters. This precision filmmaking is overtly present throughout the entire runtime and really displays how Soderbergh just gets better technically with his filmmaking, and it also adds to the overall exciting feel of the first and third act.
It is, however, this movies second act that bogs down the excitement and pace a fair bit. A stacked cast means lots of characters, and in this case, a few too many characters that are involved in separate plot points and storylines that are either introduced then left without resolution, or become to convolutedly woven in to the main story arc. Even with some great back and forth dialogue scenes between characters during the middle 40 minutes, there is just an air of disinterest due to no tight direction of where the story is going next. Ed Solomon’s script is decent and passable, but the story goes down too many familiar routes of familiar twists and turns that have always been prevalent in crime/mafia/conman tales told before.
No Sudden Move is a competent story, with 2 great lead performances in Cheadle and Del Toro, that are elevated by fantastic filmmaking from director Steven Soderbergh. The strong opening act and closing moments give the movie the credit it deserves, but a weak second act and familiar story beats do unfortunately make this film a slog to push through to the end.
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