A simple job goes spectacularly wrong in this thriller
No Sudden Move is available on HBOMax
By Diana Beechener
Fresh out of jail and in need of some quick cash, Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle: Black Monday) takes what seems to be a pretty easy job. Mysterious money man Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser: Doom Patrol) is putting together a crew: He needs three guys for a simple caper. Curt and his compatriots are to break into the home of Matt Wertz (David Harbour: Black Widow), a banker with access to a secret safe. One man will follow Matt to work while he empties said safe of the McGuffin, while the others wait at home with Matt’s family to ensure the banker behaves. It’s a half day’s work total, for a whole lot of scratch.
It’s also way too good to be true. Curt starts to have misgivings when he meets the rest of the crew. Ronald Russo (Benicio Del Toro: Dora and the Lost City of Gold) is a washed-up mobster whose racist attitudes are an immediate source of friction. Charley (Kieran Culkin: Succession) is a hood with no past, who knows the backgrounds of Curt and Ronald, but won’t offer up any information on his own.
Though he can’t trust his co-criminals, Curt needs the money. He’s got two crime bosses looking for him and a limited amount of time to get out of town with his head on his shoulders. So, Curt takes the job and hopes for the best.
When the job goes pear-shaped, the trio must improvise to keep themselves alive and get their payday. Is there a happy ending to be found or is there truly no honor among thieves?
Director Steven Soderbergh has a long history of making caper films—his biggest box office successes have arguably been the Oceans 11 franchise and the classic Out of Sight—so No Sudden Move is clearly familiar territory for the filmmaker. But while most of Soderbergh’s other crime thrillers have been comedic romps driven more by charisma than story, this film is a little more complex. Think of No Sudden Move as a mashup of Chinatown’s fatalistic worldview with the irreverence of The Italian Job.
The world Soderbergh creates is completely out of the control of our lead characters. They don’t have the means to make changes, they can only react and try to survive. Curt is wildly swinging for the fences, trying to improve his situation—so far, those attempts have just landed him in jail. Ronald is cautious to a fault, but hasn’t fared much better than Curt in the game of life. Soderbergh emphasizes their plight by using a fisheye lens that distorts the frame and warps the edges like you’re looking at the world through a peephole in a door. This makes the frame swim, showing just how constantly changing and uncertain the character’s lives are. When Soderbergh films someone with real power (like an executive banker), he plays it straight, and suddenly the frame slots into place and all the world seems right again. No Sudden Move isn’t a world that’s kind to people struggling, only those who’ve succeeded.
While the film may have a bit of a nihilistic point of view, Soderbergh keeps things light. Both Cheadle and Del Toro offer spry, funny performances that never cross into parody. Cheadle’s Charley is a deft operator. He can quickly read a situation and react accordingly. Del Toro’s Ronald, on the other hand, is a bit of a brooder. He can’t seem to decide when to make a move or how far he can go. Together, the two balance each other out, if they can only stop arguing long enough to realize it.
Like any good caper, there’s a twist or 12. Soderbergh loves a good reveal, so he throws a handful in along the way. None of the reveals upend the story, it’s more like a nod to the genre he’s playing in. You need a twist? Soderbergh has six, enjoy. But the real fun of No Sudden Move is the craft, in writing, acting, and directing. These are people at the top of their game playing in a genre they love. It’s intoxicating to watch, even if you don’t keep track of the McGuffin.
Good Crime Caper * R * 115 mins.