Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max movie No sudden movement begins like all heist movies: with what is supposed to be a simple job. A small team of criminals is hired with the promise of easy pay. They are told to put on masks and “guard” a family by breaking into their home and holding them hostage at gunpoint. After three hours the job will be done and they can leave the family unharmed and get paid. Of course it doesn’t happen like that. He never does. In no time, everything gets out of hand as a team’s score shatters into multiple patterns and devilishly sharp cinematic mayhem. And all of this shows the real cause of the violence: not the greed of petty thieves, but the rot at the heart of the project called America.
Soderbergh, the great thinker of extremely prolific cinema who also shot and edited the film (which was written by Ed Solomon of Bill & Ted and Men in black glory), turns No sudden movement in a dizzying array of things. It starts off as a felony, makes a pit stop among sitdowns and power jockeys from gangster movies, and somehow manages to tie her up. a lot disparate sons together in a period drama about the destruction of an American city. It’s all the more dazzling that it does all of this while being skillfully entertaining and self-assured.
Although there are a lot of characters to follow, No sudden movement primarily focuses on Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle), a petty con artist in Detroit in 1955 with a big secret that has left him with few friends in the world. He is hired by Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser) working on behalf of someone else, to get a document from a man named Matt Wertz (Strange things‘David Harbor). Ronald Russo (Benicio del Toro) and Charley (Kieran Culkin) join him in the task. Together, the trio plan to hold Matt’s family hostage while Charley takes Matt to retrieve the document.
It is not surprising that things go wrong. What is surprising is where the rabbit hole leads. As with any crime story, a lot of the fun is what happens when a room full of people who categorically can’t trust each other are forced to trust each other, even though they (and the audience) know full well. that someone is likely to be a double-crossover. No sudden movement layers in stabbing and betrayal with a real sense of danger and comedy, but what really keeps it going is the way each turn of the plot circumvents a different part of the city it’s in. unfolds, expanding not only the narrative, but the scope of the crime committed and the definition of who the real criminals are.
While being satisfying and rich in itself, No sudden movement ‘The gnarled plot demands close attention from viewers, and a little background knowledge of its 1950s Detroit setting goes a long way in fully clarifying its scope. (Here’s a good introduction.) The film feels like a magic trick, given that it’s decidedly a crime, but also a tour of the forces at play that brought Detroit out of the city right into the middle. boom that she was to the struggling city that she is. At the beginning of No sudden movement, this transformation is already underway, as its established black communities are evicted from their neighborhoods by financial interests in order to raze them and rebuild them in the service of capitalism. It’s sort of the story of all American cities.
This depth makes No sudden movement the kind of film that rewards multiple viewings for understanding how its painstaking research pays off and for fully appreciating the many dynamics at play. Luckily, it’s extremely easy to revisit the film – No sudden movement is full of fantastic performances bringing wicked, funny and dark characters to life, sometimes all at once. Cheadle and del Toro in particular are convincing as self-loathing crooks who have an uncanny knack for keeping a steady hand even when walls close around them.
But just about every actor in the movie is coming to screen with their characters perfectly calibrated for now. (Amy Seimetz in particular shines in the thankless role of Matt Wertz’s wife Mary, bringing a dark touch to a character who spends most of the film held hostage.) It’s also part of what makes a delight of one. Steven Soderbergh film: see which actors will appear next for roles large and small, and how much fun they will have.
Soderbergh is known for his constant experimentation. It plays with both the way stories are told (like the nonlinear experience Foolish, or the color-coded triptych of Circulation) to the way they’re made, choosing to shoot a few movies, like the 2019 Netflix drama High-flying bird, entirely on iPhone. No sudden movement isn’t that kind of flex, but it has its own visual fulfillment. He shot it with a wide-angle lens which, in tight spaces, makes scenes look fisheye, distorting the image around the edges of the screen. Most of the time this is only noticeable if you are looking for it, but in other sequences it is inevitable, a visual cue that gives the feeling of voyeurism. Furthest in No sudden movement we sink, the more it seems like we’re entitled to a view of something we’re not meant to see. Cities don’t collapse like that naturally, and big companies are run by people who know very well what they are doing to us. Our disappearances are designed, and the clumsy crooks take the fall.
No sudden movement is now available to stream on HBO Max.