Steven Soderbergh knows how to pull off a caper – and the marriage of the auto industry and criminal gangs makes for a lot of fun.
Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has some experience with capers.
This is the man who, to varying levels, thrilled with Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen and then did it again with Logan Lucky, described as a “red neck” Ocean’s, and, arguably, with The Informant!.
Since emerging out of retirement in 2017, Soderbergh has been prolific, and No Sudden Move is his sixth movie in four years. It’s like he was making up for lost time even though a four-year break is what other directors take between every picture.
No Sudden Move is a caper which reunites him with Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro and an uncredited but pivotal Matt Damon, and with Soderbergh returning to a genre that he’s so comfortable in should prepare you for that Soderbergh style and sense of play.
Plus, a convoluted plot that requires, at various points, some mental gymnastics. But at least it’s not going to require graphing paper, like a Christopher Nolan film.
Set in 1954 Detroit, Curt (Cheadle) and Russo (del Toro) are two low-level criminals hired as freelancers to intimidate Matt (David Harbour), an accountant working for General Motors.
Matt has access to a document in his boss’s safe, a document with great value to the right people. When the operation goes wrong, Curt and Russo find themselves both threatened but also with a new card to play, the documents.
They must navigate the treacherous waters of double-crosses, dangerous felons (Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin) and a clued-in detective (Jon Hamm) on the chase. Staying alive and making some cash would be hard enough if they also didn’t trust each other.
There’s a lot of going on but Soderbergh manages to thread the needle deftly so that it’s always energetic but not overwhelming.
And watching a cast this appealing was always going to be easy – Hamm puts that fedora on as if he just walked off the Mad Men sound stage yesterday instead of six years ago.
Not everything works in an ensemble this big – Noah Jupe is a bit wasted here – but there’s enough it gets right, from its textured production design and Soderbergh and cinematographer Peter Andrews’ use of an ultra-wide lens so that it has a distortion effect at the edges.
Surging through the whole endeavour is that it is a story, from a screenplay by Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted Face the Music, Now You See Me), that is rooted in power structures.
Everyone in this movie is playing a game with what little power they have. Curt and Russo are leveraging the documents they those with more power than them want while others parade their status.
The most interesting – and dangerous – are the ones who work unseen, pulling the levers to amass more power, which in turn always serves to deny others.
The intersection of criminal gangs and the American auto industry during the vast freeway expansion boom of the post-war years makes for fascinating bedfellows.
And Soderbergh knows how to make the most of it.
No Sudden Move is available to rent or purchase through digital platforms from Thursday, September 23
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