No Sudden Move Review

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: In 1954 Detroit, a group of small-time criminals are hired to steal emerging car technology. When their plan goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them – and for what ultimate purpose – weaves them through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city.

REVIEW: Steven Soderbergh loves to play with genre, style, and technology. Over the last decade, he has worked with multimedia projects (Mosaic), period dramas (The Knick), prescient thrillers (Contagion) while making movies almost entirely on iPhones. The last major studio film he made was Magic Mike and, before that, the popular Ocean's trilogy. For me, Soderbergh's late 90s output like Out of Sight and The Limey remains his most consistent period and No Sudden Move harkens back to those films as well as the work of Quentin Tarantino. With an all-star cast and snappy dialogue, No Sudden Move is a solid crime thriller with echoes of Scorsese that plays within the expected structure of a crime thriller but with some unexpected twists.

Crime, thriller, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Steven Soderbergh, No Sudden Move, 2021

Written by Ed Solomon (the Bill and Ted trilogy), No Sudden Move is a complex story with a large cast of interconnected characters all brought together around a pivotal job to steal a document from an auto manufacturer. As the story develops, the secondary and tertiary connections between Ronald Russo (Benicio Del Toro) and Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) begin to unravel a story with larger implications. What is interesting is that Steven Soderbergh knows how elaborate this story is and yet watching No Sudden Move unfold is as casual as more mainstream fare like Ocean's Eleven. An original story, this movie feels heavily indebted to the writing of Elmore Leonard and movies like Goodfellas and The Irishman. While not nearly as epic as those Scorsese classics, it certainly plays in the same sandbox.

Without giving away the plot, the item being sought by everyone is a MacGuffin that pulls everything together. There are crime bosses like Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta) and Aldrick Watkins (Bill Duke), detectives like Joe Finney (Jon Hamm), fixers like Jones (Brendan Fraser), and dames like Vanessa Capelli (Julie Fox) and Paula (Frankie Shaw). We also have the inside man Matt Wertz (David Harbour) and his family who get caught in the crossfire. Everyone in the cast, including support roles by Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Aimee Seimetz, and the late Craig muMs Grant adds to the layered ensemble who all have motives, ulterior and otherwise, that give them a stake in the story.

On top of serving as director, Steven Soderbergh takes triple duty as cinematographer and editor, using his usual pseudonyms. The frame is constantly crisp and uses natural lighting to evoke a gritty and realistic portrait of mid-20th century Detroit, but throughout the movie, it is obvious that Soderbergh filmed some, if not all, of this movie on an iPhone. Many of the wide shots have a fish eye quality to them which distorts the extremes of the image. While it does not impact the narrative, I did find myself often distracted by it as I watched the movie. Aside from that, the movie has great visual quality and never forces period references to the story being set in 1954. Aside from the cars and some clothing, the movie could have been set in the present day.

The film also has a great score by David Holmes, a frequent Soderbergh collaborator going back to 1998's Out of Sight. The jazz-inspired score, like any great soundtrack, is good enough to listen to independently of the film, but within the movie, it adds a perfect enhancement to the mystery elements of the movie. It never overshadows what you see on screen nor does it drown out these great actors, all of whom get multiple opportunities to be showcased. While the majority of the film centers on Del Toro and Cheadle, both of whom are excellent here, we also get knockout scenes from Kieran Culkin in a role much different to his character on Succession, David Harbour in a much more subdued performance than he usually gives, and a fantastic cameo that I will not spoil for you here.

Crime, thriller, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Steven Soderbergh, No Sudden Move, 2021

No Sudden Move works as well as it does because Steven Soderbergh keeps the pace fast and loose with a story that does not try to do more than entertain. Yes, after the requisite double and triple-crosses, there is something of a message baked into the ending of the story. But, despite the trappings of the genre, this movie exceeds expectations thanks to the caliber of acting on display. When the credits roll, you probably won't be quoting lines, but you will definitely find yourself entertained. This is not a movie where the bad guys lose and the good guys win, but enough twists keep coming that I often wasn't sure of how things would turn out. A quirky and fun flick, No Sudden Move is Soderbergh's best film in years.

No Sudden Move premieres July 1st on HBO Max.

No Sudden Move



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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.