No Sudden Move (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
CARELESS storytelling halts Steven Soderbergh's No Sudden Move from being an unforgettable tale of crime and retribution, but what the film lacks in character development it more than makes up for in personality, harkening back to the bygone era of mobster movies.
Set in 1950s Detroit, city gangsters Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) and Ronald Russo (Benicio Del Toro) are unknowingly brought together to collect valuable documents from car company accountant Matt Wertz (David Harbour). However, when the simple job suddenly goes south, Goynes and Russo are left to fend for each other in order to uncover the reasoning behind their mutual employment and find out what truly lies within Motor City's seedy underbelly - all while being pursued by Detective Joe Finney (Jon Hamm) and the rest of the city as a large bounty has been placed on their heads.
Known for his directorial work on 2000's Traffic and 2013's Behind the Candelabra, Soderbergh injects his trademark mix of gripping drama and whimsical flamboyance into the world of No Sudden Move by bringing life to each character, no matter how insignificant their roles may be. Whether it be Cheadle's sly lead wanting to get out of Motown, or Wertz' wife Mary (Amy Seimetz) falling into a state of monotonicity, each character is given adamant development - even if alot of this development doesn't amount to anything in the grand scheme of things. But this needless expansion on characters plays to the film's strengths, allowing the audience to become more emotionally attached with each respective character, particularly Del Toro and Cheadle, who work together to effortlessly carry the film.
Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle have tremendous chemistry alongside one another, seamlessly bouncing off each other to create moments of serious tension and gut-wrenching humour. This humour is primarily apparent during the opening half of the film where the two, alongside Charley (Kieran Culkin), must work together to retrieve vital papers from Matt Wertz, leading to a comedy of criminal errors such as wearing masks that don't cover their mouths and Charley, mistakenly, not making it back from the mission. David Harbour delivers a decent performance as a family man who is suddenly thrown into Russo and Goynes' corrupt world, but his character arc of a husband needing to redeem himself soon flounders, disappearing without a trace due to runtime restraints as it's wrapped up through one simple piece of dialogue to his wife: "It's only Tuesday." Co-stars Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm and Ray Liotta also do as good as they can considering the limited amount of screentime each is given, particularly Hamm, who despite being a critical character, barely factored into the film for majority of it. Compare this to Ray Liotta's Franky Capelli who exudes power and has a backstory with both leading characters, especially Russo, which is given a realistic yet surprising conclusion that was fitting with each character's plans and personalities.
No Sudden Move may not be the most consistent movie in terms of storytelling and character progression, but what the film lacks in firmness it more than makes up for in finesse and style. Sometimes less is more, and in Soderbergh's fascinating mobster movie, less definitely equates to more as sophisticated dialogue slides like a knife on butter to make for engaging moments of intensity and hysterical moments of comedy. Huge props must be given to writer Ed Solomon (Men in Black and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) as without this witty script, No Sudden Move wouldn't have jelled and potentially would've been a boring, half-baked mobster movie, but thankfully it was the furthest thing from it.