No Sudden Move

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

No Sudden Move
dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Ed Solomon
prd Casey Silver
with Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Bill Duke, Noah Jupe, Julia Fox, Craig muMs Grant, Frankie Shaw, Matt Damon
release US 1.Jul.21
21/US Warner 1h55

hamm seimetz jupe

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del toro and cheadle
With a densely tangled plot and sparky characters, this dramatic thriller gives ace director Steven Soderbergh plenty of black comedy and nervous suspense to play with. Even if the pacing is uneven, this is an impeccably produced period caper, snaking through well-staged set-pieces that push people to the brink and beyond. While a bleak larger theme comes too late to have its proper impact, getting there is riveting.
In 1954 Detroit, Curt (Cheadle) is hired by Jones (Fraser) for a job that seems simple enough. Promising that gangster Frank (Liotta) isn't involved, Jones also brings in Ronald and Charley (Del Toro and Culkin). After weighing each other up, they grab Matt (Harbour), keeping watch over his family while they escort him to retrieve a document. But things quickly go off the rails, and Curt puts a plan together when he discovers that feared mob boss Watkins (Duke) is involved. Meanwhile, Federal agent Joe (Hamm) is trying to get to the bottom of things.
The script takes its time establishing a situation that never quite becomes crystal clear, and the plot is instantly complicated by a messy flurry of sideroads that compromise each character. This leads to a series of revelations, betrayals and power plays that put each person's life in jeopardy. And each of them are is pretty ruthless already. So shootouts are quick and deadly. Double-crosses are sudden and often heart-stopping. And the MacGuffin is an enjoyably irrelevant scientific formula.

Each role offers textures, angles and snippets of back-story for this superb ensemble cast to run with. Cheadle and Del Toro hold the film together with their unflappable cool, even as things get increasingly precarious. Fraser has terrific presence as a mob heavy, clearly relishing a new character type, while Liotta and Duke effortlessly command their scenes. Culkin is a standout as a jittery thug. And Seimetz and Jupe are particularly strong as Matt's wife and teen son. There's also an entertaining and remarkably intense extended cameo from Matt Damon.

The main feature here is that nobody in this story can trust anyone else, even as they're forced to work together to get through each potentially fatal situation. Intriguingly, this isn't a tale about personal greed; the main concern is survival. Although of course money is ultimately behind everything that happens, including the final unveiling of a corporate/political issue that points to a much bigger picture. And the main point is that most people just don't know where to stop.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Jul.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall