No Sudden Move
Soderbergh's latest is a solid if unmemorable flick
Since Steven Soderbergh “retired” from Hollywood in 2013, he’s become one of the most prolific directors working today. He’s helmed two TV series (The Knick (2014-2015), Mosaic (2017-2018)) and six films in the last five years. The most recent of which is an HBO Max exclusive titled No Sudden Move (2021).
No Sudden Move is a semi-return from Soderbergh into the crime/heist genre that made him a go-to in Hollywood with his Ocean’s movies. No Sudden Move is more of a gangster flick, however. It takes place in Detroit in the 1950s, and we follow hired-gun Curt (Don Cheadle) as he is hired into a seemingly simple hold-up case, but turns out part of a macro-operation.
Soderbergh returns to his style of complex and parallel moving pieces. He’s already proven to be capable of bringing clarity from a supposedly complex and witty situation in his other heist films. His editing style and rhythm in such sequences help give No Sudden Move a healthy pace. Unlike the Ocean’s films and even the more recent Logan Lucky (2017), however, No Sudden Move leans much heavier into the darker aspects of its story, so that it really becomes an edgy dark comedy. The plot structure will no doubt remind many of Chinatown (1974) in how a small pawn becomes self-aware at the role and stakes of the plan he’s participating in. It proves to be a played structure and trope, and yet one that is still executed efficiently.
As with all of Soderbergh’s films he’s able to bring together a fabulous cast. In No Sudden Moves I was pleased to see him both mix up-and-coming talent with “forgotten” actors of the past decade. As such we get supporting turns from David Harbour, Noah Jupe, and Julia Fox, but also are startled at seeing the likes of Brendan Fraser, Bill Duke, and Ray Liotta pop up. The film is largely centered on a duopoly between Cheadle and his co-worker gun-for-hire Russo (Benicio Del Toro). Cheadle takes on a more grave and dramatically centered role than we’ve been accustomed to seeing him in Marvel’s blockbusters. Cheadle’s performance demonstrates once again why he must flex his dramatic muscle more, as he has been cornered in comedy and is wasting an entire other side of his skill set. However, it is always delightful to see Del Toro’s more comedic side, as it proves to be the reason he stands out with limited screen time in the likes of The Usual Suspects (1995) or Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
Soderbergh’s impressive cast might be its biggest weakness, however. By having such a sprawling and fast-moving story, there is only so much time the film can dedicate to deepen and explore its characters. We do get moments for Curt, but they feel incomplete. By trying to put forth a fun and thrilling story, while also doling out screen time to all its stars, Soderbergh dilutes the weight of his entire film. As such, scenes are forced to move fast, and we’re rarely left much time to contemplate characters and their dilemmas.
In the end, No Sudden Move is a well-executed crime/heist film, it certainly reminds viewers of Soderbergh strengths. However, the director’s divided attention to so many arcs makes much of the film feel shallow. There is an underlying feeling throughout the runtime that Soderbergh doesn’t really have much to say and is simply making a film for the sake of it.