Steven Soderbergh has had a storied and successful career as a director in Hollywood
starting with 1989’s Sex, Lies, and Videotapes. Since then he has garnered a reputation for
ensemble casts like in Ocean’s Eleven, the use of independent interwoven storylines to create
one larger story like Contagion, and a spirit towards technical experimentation like his 2018 film
Unsane, which was filmed entirely on an iPhone 7.
His newest film released last week on HBO Max, No Sudden Move, contains each of these signature elements, however some work much better than others.
Set in 1950’s Detroit, a ragtag trio of small-time gangsters are hired for a seemingly safe
job, assisting in a small heist for a mysterious document, when just about everything that can go
wrong does. From this point the story follows the gangsters as they scramble to stay alive under
pressure from their bosses, the bosses trying to hunt them down, the family victimized by the
heist, and many, many more side characters. The cast itself could support 10 different
blockbusters featuring the talents of Brendan Fraser, Julia Fox, Ray Liotta, David Harbour, Amy
Seimetz, Jon Hamm, and most centrally, Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro.
The element of Soderbergh’s that works best in No Sudden Move is absolutely the cast.
It’s a large ensemble that has essentially no weak links. It’s a mix of new and old Hollywood
talent devoid of any weak links, that makes the film engaging throughout its runtime.
However, they story beats each character inhabits are a little bit more uneven. The nature
of having such a sprawling story is that the momentum of the film can easily get slowed down by
scenes that are less interesting or central to the plot than the main story. It isn’t anything the film
doesn’t correct quickly enough, but it seems like it could have used some refocusing at the script
writing level, especially with an ending that confusingly tries to shoehorn in historical context.
Unfortunately, the film’s worst aspect is the most readily apparent, if you’ve seen any
still or trailer of the film it is immediately apparent, and that is the pervasive use of anamorphic
wide-angle lenses. These lenses distort the image towards the edge of the frame and stretch it out
in the middle creating a consistently disorienting image that feels like it could have been used
more sparingly for a better effect.
Despite it’s flaws however, Soderbergh is almost always a solid bet to at least make
something entertaining, if not very emotionally resonant, and that is no different here. No Sudden
Move is still absolutely worth a viewing and is currently available to stream on HBO Max.
– 3/5 stars