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Review: 'No Sudden Move' (2021) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Amy Seimetz, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, Julia Fox, Noah Jupe, Bill Duke and Matt Damon


Suffering initial delays due to the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic, director Steven Soderbergh had his cast and crew ready to go and proved the show can go on for the film industry...

Gangsters Curt Goynes (Cheadle) and Ronald Russo (del Toro) are brought together under the request of mobster Doug Jones (Fraser) to acquire secret accounts from the office of Matt Wertz (Harbour) with his family held hostage.

The job doesn't quite to as expected, and when the kill count suddenly rises, Curt and Ronald are suddenly forced to go on the run with a bounty on their heads. The only one they feel can help them is crime boss Frank Capelli (Liota) with motivations of his own.

Police Detective Joe Finney (Hamm) takes on the investigation in what becomes a murder case, and discovers there's a trail of corruption and blackmail that Curt and Ronald are in the middle of, and where few can be trusted to discover the one pulling the strings...

Director Steven Soderbergh returns to form with this period crime / mystery film that explores corruption and power struggles in the mid 1950s America, seen through the eyes of those living it.

Evoking the 1950s Detroit is easy enough to do with the period cars, costume and sets that are wonderfully authentic. It's the era of trilby hats, automatic pistols and slick cars, dames and damsels, moody lit homes, sterile glass offices and bustling streets. As much as the iconography, we are treated to discussion and investigation into elements such as race, politics and economical growth of community. There is more to the crimes going on than just big bucks; there are people being played with and exploiting power and position to climb the ranks and get the rewards from social ladders. Seeing the desperation of those in trouble is dealt with brilliantly, the underlying mystery and tension always there so you're not sure who will come unstuck next, or what their greedy motivation is; sex, murder or business.

We are in good company with a roster including Cheadle, Del Toro, Hamm, Harbour and even Ray Liotta and Bill Duke in for the ride - and Matt Damon for a cheeky cameo.

A perfect, veteran cast for the era come together, led by the pairing of Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro as our gangsters forced to take matters into their own hands with frustrated accountant David Harbour after a job goes wrong. So begins a story of setups, big money business and scams. Cop John Hamm is the one sussing out who is behind it all, tracing the higher ranks of crime groups representing the Americans and Italians. Classic crime / gangster narrative but with added infrastructure and investment deals on a corporate scale.

Cheadle and del Toro make a brilliant pair. Cheadle especially feels like his worn gangster Curt has been ripped from a graphic novel or a crime story itself. The husky voice, the dark aura surrounding him, the balance of humour and humanity with his cool, calm and collected way of working. He's a fascinating character you'd happily see more of in this genre.

However there is more to this than a period crime drama; it's about character over action (of which there is hardly any), and how people handle themselves and others to get what theyneed. Lots of mood lighting, diegetic noise and a cool score by David Holmes make this a film noir that oozes character. No Sudden Move could easily be a stage adaptation with so much focus on character and relationships, but of course there is too much going on to restrain things to a stage. The plot moves forward gently, and again this is down to our lead actors carrying the story over the action - it's a corrupt mystery thriller over a gangster film, but not at the expense of the genre.

The fish-eye lens is distracting more than effective, turning characters into rakes who step to the edge of frame, but yet there's something surreal and expansive about it to see what's going on as much as possible. Soderbergh certainly maintains experimenting with the framing and angles of many shots, again with some working and some not.

But for the most part, it's a steady, well shot and atmospheric view of this period.

A solid return to form for Soderbergh who brings together a brilliant cast to tell a slick and stylish period piece that does what it sets out to do with no surprises, but as a solid example of the genre.

'No Sudden Move' is a Warner Bros. Pictures production

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