No Sudden Movie review: A slick, serious thriller
James R | On 09, Oct 2021
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, David Harbour, Benedicio Del Toro, Kieran Culkin, Frankie Shaw
Where to watch No Sudden Movie online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Almost a decade after his supposed retirement, Steven Soderbergh remains one of the coolest directors around, not because of any inherent cool that he himself possesses, but because of the casual enjoyment that always cruises through his storytelling, as he confidently hops from one genre to the next with a playful style that would be flippant if it weren’t so meticulously crafted. No Sudden Move, his latest, has that same slick insouciance, but it’s brilliantly paired with a more thoughtful meditation on inequality, racial inequity, industry corruption and lack of care for the environment.
The film unfolds in 1950s Detroit, which has been transformed by motor industry, and Curt (Don Cheadle), a veteran of these streets, has seen that change first-hand. An ex-con, he’s desperate enough to turn to Jones (Brendan Fraser – superbly slimy), a criminal middle-manager, who recruits him to keep an eye on the family of a General Motors employee – Matt (David Harbour) – while leaning on him to steal something from the office. From the moment Curt takes the gig, we see that he’s on the back foot, with his accomplices Ronald (Benicio Del Toro – intimidatingly enigmatic) and Charley (Kieran Culkin) paid much more for their part in the hostage/heist job.
What begins as a low-key home invasion set-up, though, soon takes a violent turn – and then another, and then another. Before you can say “hardboiled noir”, we’re five double-crosses down, several extramarital affairs in and racing to keep up. The script by Ed Solomon weaves together an ensemble of people all out for their own piece of the pie, from Matt’s boss, Mel Forbert (Hugh Maguire), to Matt’s lover, Paula (Frankie Shaw), not to mention a cop played by Jon Hamm and a crime bigwig played by Bioll Duke.
The result is gorgeously fun, from the beautiful production and costume design, all filmed through wide-angle lenses, to David Arnold’s pulpy music, and the cast are clearly enjoying inhabiting this world. Don Cheadle, in particular, delivers a fantastic turn as a guy determined to get the shoe on the other foot and even out the playing field. But there’s more than just gloss to admire, as Soderbergh’s surprisingly muted tone brings not a weariness but a lived-in, worn quality to events. Cheadle’s scrappy player is ageing, Harbour’s office man is fraying and Hamm’s investigator is almost bent out of boredom than anything else.
That emphasises the moral weight underpinning the light-footed, transactional thrills. Soderbergh and Solomon allow their themes to loom in the background, never explicitly discussing them but implicitly hinting through gestures and comments – from one person wiping a chair to another talking disdainfully about “urban renewal”. Rooted in real-life corporate wrongdoing, what emerges is a natural follow-up to Soderbergh’s less successful The Laundromat, a Netflix film about the Panama Papers. There’s a frustration at the heart of this story that the power and wealth being abused is several rungs out of reach up the ladder. “It’s like a lizard’s tail,” one elusive rich suit comments near the end, as he brags about his riches. “I work, it grows. I sleep, it grows.” If you can sense Soderbergh’s exasperation at the state of the world, it’s clear he’s not losing his passion for filmmaking any time soon.
No Sudden Move is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.