With No Sudden Move, Steven Soderbergh continues his streak of directing one film a year and makes his quick return to the crime genre with a different tonnage and environment. The film combines a neo-noir style with some of the techniques that he has used in Traffic (2000), Out of Sight (2005), and The Good German (2006). Unlike most of his work, this one does not occur in the present day; it is set in 1950s Detroit and does look the part indeed. The old-school style is present in the costumes and art direction.
The film focuses on two small-time criminals, Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) and Ronald Russo (Benicio del Toro), who are hired to steal a document from a safe. When the heist does not go as planned, they start searching for who hired them and why. As they seek answers, a path of secrecy and double-dealings appears upon them in a quickly-changing city.
Most of his films have a great cast, still, there are instances when its big cast fails to uplift the film like 2019’s The Laundromat. In this case, the ensemble is what makes it tick. There are not big moments or insane dramatic scenes like in other crime flicks because their performances strive through subtlety and acute line delivery. There is no clear standout in the cast; they all have their moments to shine and show their craft.
Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro have great chemistry and they deliver slick performances. Kieran Culkin plays his classic witty role. John Hamm and Ray Liotta do what they always do, which is not bad, but you know they can do better. Meanwhile, David Harbour works his way around the poorly written lines he is given. There is a spotlight around some of the supporting roles, especially Amy Seimetz and Julia Fox.
It is interesting how their performances polar each other. Seimetz is cool, calm, and collected on the outside, and worried deeply on the inside. Meanwhile, Fox starts being bewitching and finishes with a snarky and slimy demeanor. Unfortunately, the film does not give their characters much to do, but they do their best with the screen time given. There is one actor in this film that I am glad is being cast in big pictures again, and that is Brendan Fraser. Though not his finest performance, it is exciting to see him back.
What makes the film not reach its full potential? The cinematography. At times, the image lacks “oomph”, but it is not bad-looking. It is the lenses that Soderbergh uses during the film; in my opinion, it was quite distracting and annoying. A key moment might be happening, and you are not focused on what is happening. You are looking at the screen wondering why it looks like the camera is in a fishbowl. Unsane (2018), which Soderbergh filmed on an iPhone, has a far more interesting look.
It is great that he keeps experimenting with different styles of shooting a film, yet there are times where you wish he could go back to his former simplistic ways. No Sudden Move is an entertaining film that starts as a caper narrative and ends up a complex dealing of cloak and dagger amid treachery. It makes the best out of its dedicated and fascinating cast, nevertheless, its poor choices in cinematography and uneven pacing hurt the film from becoming something more substantial.
Watch it now on HBO Max!