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USA 2021
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
115 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

No Sudden Move

Steven Soderbergh is a master film-maker whose C.V. encompasses a diverse range from his pioneering 1989 indie smash hit Sex, Lies and Videotape (my personal favourite) to his best known work the glitzy, star-studded, crowd-pleasing Ocean’s franchise.

With No Sudden Moves he not only directs but is his own cinematographer and editor. The result is a classy neo-noir with a tip-top cast who deliver performances of a calibre to match. It’s only problem is that its arguably too good. That is, the craftsmanship tends to undercut the film’s dramatic force.

It’s 1954 in Detroit aka Motor City and Curtis Goynes (Don Cheadle), a small time crook, has just completed a jail sentence. Needing money he is recruited by a gangland handler named Jones (a scarcely recognizable Brendan Fraser) to do a small job “babysitting” a woman (Amy Seimetz) and her two children while her husband (David Harbour) goes to his office to retrieve a document. Jones introduces Goynes to his accomplices Charley (Kieran Culkin) and Russo (Benicio Del Toro). The job goes wrong and Goynes and Russo decide to leverage the document for their financial gain by playing off mob bosses Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta), whose wife Vanessa (Julia Fox) Russo happens to be schtupping, and Aldrich Watkins (Bill Duke).

This doesn’t go so well either but Goynes realizes that they’re onto what could become a big score. Eventually they’re in the boardroom of top auto executive Mike Lowen (Soderbergh regular, Matt Damon, uncredited in a stand-out scene) and about to collect the biggest payoff of their lives. Meanwhile a police detective (John Hamm) is on their tail. That’s the bare bones of Ed Solomon’s smart script that pays homage to the twistings and turnings of Hollywood noirs, in particular Howard Hawks’ classic The Big Sleep (1946) 

On this foundation Soderbergh fashions an impressively well-above standard genre film that offers many visual and conceptual delights. The only thing missing is a strong dramatic focus. Cheadle’s Goynes, who appears alone in the opening and closing shots, is the closest the film comes to having a sustained central point of view but it is only close as now one, now another character emerges briefly only to be subsumed by the laminated narrative, each piece cleverly locking into its place to form a single visual whole.

Although because of this it doesn't reach the heights of Roman Polansk's, retro-noir classic Chinatown (1974) No Sudden Move with its superb production design, art direction and so on is still a film well-worth catching and for fans of the genre more than once at that.  




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