No Sudden Move

  • 17 Jul - 23 Jul, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

In this new HBO Max release No Sudden Move we’re whisked back to this period via rumpled vintage suits, the occasional bebop idiom dotting the dialogue, and a border-warping fisheye lens evoking a nostalgic past that may be more in Soderbergh’s imagination than cinema history. At any rate, he unobtrusively conveys the sociocultural context the average viewer will need: the Motor City is being carved up like a pie by the automotive giants at Ford, GM and Chrysler, leaving the human beings who have long occupied the area scrambling to hold on to the few rights they’ve got left.

That delicate operation centers on crooks Curt (Don Cheadle), Ronald (Benicio del Toro) and Charley (Kieran Culkin) busting into the home of company man Matt (David Harbour) to hold his family at gunpoint. They’ve come to compel him to steal some MacGuffin-type document, a vagary that a lesser film would allow to sit, its purpose of advancing the plot served. In this case, the precise nature of that manila envelope’s contents will be revealed, and with its revelation, the scope of the affair expands to proportions greater than these criminals and the pair of gangster bosses after them. In their later scenes, heist films will often lead their characters to the realisation that This Goes All the Way to the Top; Soderbergh and Solomon instead assert that we don’t even really know where the top is, and that we can scarcely conceive of the power and sheer enormity of influence wielded at the top.

As the simple task of retrieving the mystery papers goes south, the nearly two-hour runtime condenses more plotting and diversion into the sequence of events, the best of it following a pair of irate mistresses. The overstuffed, better-keep-up narrative suits the film’s purposes, occupying audience attentions to leave them unprepared for the nimble writing’s assorted baits and switches. It’s all part of the game that Soderbergh has mastered this deep into a prolific and storied career, in which the objective is the appropriation of corporate funds for scathingly critical yet casually enjoyable anti-corporate art. His most valuable skill seems to be in affecting the guise of commercial appeal to get his idiosyncratic, heady passion projects made. Whether he has to shoot through Covid or shack up with streaming giants uninterested in theatrical releasing, he always makes it work. Like the schemers and strivers peopling his vision of Detroit, the most he can hope for is to carve out and rule his own corner of a vast, ruthless business that he could never conquer in total.