Steven Soderbergh returns to peak crime drama form with an outstanding all-star cast. No Sudden Move is a riveting tale of theft, murder, and betrayal. What begins as a simple job for three career criminals spirals into a big money score with serious ramifications. The fifties period setting adds fascinating social, racial, and sexual dynamics. Each character has a different agenda, but learns the hard way that there is no honor among thieves.
No Sudden Move takes place in 1954 Detroit. The recently paroled Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) needs money and a way out of town fast. He’s offered a seemingly easy gig by Jones (Brendan Fraser), an unfamiliar fixer with deep pockets. Curt is surprised when Jones recruits two other men for the job. Ronald Russo (Benicio Del Toro) likes to drink and bed an Italian crime boss’s (Ray Liotta) wife (Julia Fox). Charley (Kieran Culkin) is a hothead who knows a little too much about his cohorts. The disparate trio are deeply suspicious of each other, but can’t turn down easy cash.
In the suburbs, Matt Wertz (David Harbour) gets ready for work. His wife, Mary (Amy Seimetz), notices he’s wearing cologne. As she prepares breakfast for her teenage son (Noah Jupe) and young daughter (Lucy Holt), three masked men with guns barge into the house. A terrified Mary begs them not to hurt her family. They’ve come with simple instructions for Matt. He has thirty minutes to retrieve a document from his manager’s safe at work. Charley will follow him to make sure he sticks to the plan. But Curt becomes uneasy about the whole situation. Something is amiss about the set-up. His instincts are proven correct. Leading to a bloody conspiracy that ensnares organized crime, law enforcement, and ruthless corporate interests.
The screenplay by Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Now You See Me) is superbly written. He gives Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) and the venerated actors significant meat to chew on. Curt Goynes is no fool. He understands quickly that there are much bigger stakes at play. He also recognizes an opportunity to fix his problems and make a fortune. Unfortunately, his partners in crime are not as farsighted. Black and white hoodlums rarely crossed circles.
Teaming up with a different race against bigger fish, at that point in time, was a completely foreign concept. But greed and survival trumps stereotypes. The best way forward is together. Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro put on an acting clinic here. There’s a lot of nuance to their relationship. You’re always waiting to see who’s going to stab the other in the back.
No Sudden Move mines dramatic gold with its complex subplots. To say there’s a lot going on here is an understatement. The wives and girlfriends also have intriguing narratives. Mary Wertz knows her husband is having an affair, but is unsure of how to handle it. She’s trapped in her life. The irony is that the hostage scenario and its aftermath brings her priorities clearly into focus. Frankie Shaw has a small, but standout performance as Matt’s secretary and mistress. Her motivations are critical to the story’s development. It’s rare to see a gangster film with such layered female characters.
No Sudden Move constantly evolves through its runtime. Double-crosses abound. You have to pay attention and infer background details from the dialogue. I applaud Soderbergh for not spoon-feeding every crumb of the plot. No Sudden Move is a smart film that’s well-acted across the board. Another must-see from one of Hollywood’s best directors. No Sudden Move is a production of Warner Bros. and Warner Max. It will premiere globally July 1st on HBO Max.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.