Getting back into filmmaking after months of Covid’s shutdown seems to be a tremendous amount of stress, and from the looks of the cast and crew credits for “No sudden move,” Steven Soderbergh decided to relieve that stress by surrounding himself with people he knew. It is a picture book full of reunions: with its frequent star Don Cheadle, with Cheadles “Traffic” Co-star Benicio del Toro, With Amy Seimetz (of “Girlfriend experience” TV adaptation), with Bill Duke of “Soaring Bird”; even Brendan Fraser was previously forgotten by Soderbergh in a wonderful episode show time Anthology series “Fallen angel.” The script is from Ed Solomonwho wrote the director’s direction HBO series “Mosaic”; the music comes from his regular collaborator David Holmes; the producer is Casey silverwho, as head of Universal imagesShe offered Soderbergh the picture that saved his career, “Out of sight.” (And of course he’s working with the Director of Photography again Peter Andrews and editor Mary Ann Bernard, Wink, wink.)
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He’s also revisiting his favorite genre, the crime thriller. You could even call it another crack in the robbery film (after the “Ocean” Series, “Logan’s luck” and “The underworld”). Still, it is more accurate to place it in the tradition of the crime films of the 1950s, which in retrospect were the embryonic versions of his snazzy robbery films – classics like “The asphalt jungle” and “The killing.” These films introduced and / or perfected many of the signatures of the robbery film: putting together a crew of specialists, documenting the timing down to the second, tick-tacking the job itself, etc. But unlike “Ocean” and its ilk, robbery was not the goal of the narrative; Even if everything went as planned, the focus was on unraveling afterwards, the various ways the criminals couldn’t get away (and couldn’t get away with that pesky Hays code).
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So it makes sense that Solomon would locate his story in 1954. The venue is Detroit, and our entry point is Curt Goynes (Cheadle), a professional thief just out of the pub. An employee points him out to Jones (Fraser), whose boss is “looking for a reliable man to get something done”. Curt, eyeing a property in the Midwest, barely bothered asking the score, but it’s three hours of work, “as part of a babysitting team,” for five grand. Curt’s partners at work are Ronald Russo (Del Toro), whom he heard about, and Charley (Kieran Culkin) whom he doesn’t have.
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As is his usual style, Soderbergh doesn’t fully interpret the piece – he lets us, along with his characters, figure it out how it happens. Early in the morning the trio invades Matt Wertz’s house (David Harbor) and his family; the scene takes place in conscious silence and you can hear the birds singing outside when Ronald asks the son (Noah Justus), “Are you a Sugar Smacks guy or a Trix guy?” Wertz is ordered to retrieve a mysterious envelope from his boss’ safe, and as long as he does, his family will not be harmed. It seems like a simple thing. It is not.
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What follows is a dizzying array of bluffs, setups, deals, double-crosses, and MacGuffins (I counted two, your mileage may vary). The complexity of the plot a little overwhelms the image, which gets a little fuzzy in the middle – but it finally clicks into place forcefully, mostly by finding its backbone in the simple notion that it is a movie People under pressure.
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Not all of this is generated by the narrative; the racial tension between Curt and Ronald, for example, is played straight ahead like an arrow by Cheadle and Del Toro (and added texture by Del Toro’s casting as the character is white). These are stubborn men who don’t dare, but have to at least temporarily (“I know why Frank wants to see me dead. Why does he want you dead?”), And they are precisely played by two actors who like, have the characters a few miles away. Cheadle is especially good at giving Curt’s voice a crackle and a fire in his eyes – we never got a sequel “Devil in a blue dress” Damn it, but that could easily be Mouse in a few years. As in his best work, Del Toro mostly leans back and focuses on details; A nice touch is the idea that Ronald is a little dandy, and when the crew get together the night before the job, he brings his freshly ironed suit on a hanger over his shoulder.
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The newcomers come off just as well as the veterans, especially Julia Fox (a honey-voiced delight as a woman with a secret or two) and Harbor, who projects a tough exterior and then pulls it off to reveal the impatient weakling underneath. He gets two really wonderful scenes, one riddled with apologies, another with a long overdue explanation of what got him into this mess (“Imagine it’s two days since I gave you this tell me! ”he pleads so desperately that you almost want it to work).
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Soderbergh assembles all of this with his accustomed light-footed grace, his work is (as always) a pleasure just around the corner Clock, miserable with inventive compositions and springy editing rhythms (the scene after scene gives us either an unexpected entry or exit point and sometimes both). His visual experiments are not entirely successful – I’m not as intoxicated with his wide-angle pans as he is – but the picture always looks and sounds crisp (Holmes’ score is, as usual, a wonderful flashback) and the curveball kinetics of his action beats are always astounding again.
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But Soderbergh doesn’t just want to entertain. “No Sudden Move” ultimately has less in common with “Ocean’s 11” than “Soaring Bird” or “The Girlfriend Experience”, Films fueling the drama and conflict, real social and economic concerns fueling the drama and conflict, and the brilliance with which he and Solomon bring that element to the fore, with a meeting of commoners and white-collar criminals, the “all.” Seems to violate the laws of history, nature and class – no, caste “… well, that’s a bit of a miracle. On the other hand, this filmmaker performs these all the time. [A-]