I’m not sure how much of No Sudden Move can be reviewed without giving away some of the plot twists. Some critics have even not listed some of the cast even though I will because I don’t think it matters.
Brendan Fraser plays a middle man who hires three criminals played by Don Cheadle, Benecio Del Toro and Keiran Culkin to handle a simple “babysitting” job as they go to a Detroit suburb home where David Harbour is the all-American father who seems to be living the perfect nuclear family for the 1954 setting.
Of course, there are secrets later revealed as the plot doesn’t go as planned, as they never do. Culkin’s Charley takes Harbour’s accountant Matt Wertz to his office on a Monday morning to get a document from his boss’ office.
At his house, Curt Goynes (Cheadle) and Ronald Russo (Del Toro) watch over the family but there is some early problems when Matt’s wife, Mary (Amy Seimetz) trying to get rid of her daughter’s classmate and friend on the way to school makes her mother suspicious.
And the document isn’t so easily obtained as there are things going on at Matt’s workplace and someone ends up being shot and law enforcement arrives with an investigation being led by Jon Hamm as Detective Joe Finney who knows things aren’t as they seem.
What happens next is a lot of twists and turns as the plot zigs this way then zags that way right when we think we know where it’s headed. Characters mentioned in the first act pop up in the second or third. One of those is Ray Liotta as Frank Capelli, a mob leader whose wife, Vanessa (Julia Fox) is having an affair with Ronald. Fox’s delivery of Ronald’s name is perfect Midwestern twang that brings up memories of the accents in Fargo.
Bill Duke has a nice role as another mob leader of Detriot’s black criminal population. As a matter of fact, the movie doesn’t shy away from politics and that might drive some viewers of this movie away. It is 1954. We can’t deny that it wasn’t really the best time for some people in Detroit as a discussion over “urban renewal” is called “Negro removal” by Curt.
I have family on my father’s side who moved to Michigan from the South after The Great Depression/World War II era and they made well lives. And Detroit is Motor City. One may ask why the Big Three automakers were in the same region of each other. It’s probably for the same reason Silicon Valley is where you go if you’re into computers; Nashville is the place for country-western singers; and Los Angeles is the place for filmmakers, location, location, location.
You can have people work in an industry can easily move around to companies without ever having to move out of their homes. And that urban renewal is why Curt is taking the job because he wants some money to get out of town.
However, even in crime, there is wage discrimination as Fraser’s Doug Jones offers Curt $5,000 but Ronald $7,500. There is no mention of how much Charley was offered.
The title of the movie has many meanings. On first glance, it looks like a typical crime thriller title but as you think about it, you wonder what is actually meant by “move.”
Steven Soderbergh, who directed this movie, hit fame in 1998 when he made another movie, Out of Sight, about a heist gone wrong in Detriot. Cheadle was in that movie as well as his Ocean’s Eleven movies, which also starred Matt Damon, who appears here in the third act. It’s no surprise. Damon has appeared in many of Soderbergh’s movies, including a small role as a detective in the 2018 Unsafe and had a notable role in the 2013 HBO movie Behind the Candlebra, which Soderbergh said was going to be his last directing effort.
And that didn’t last long as Soderbergh made Logan Lucky in 2017.
I wouldn’t call this movie a heist movie even though it starts out as so. Soderbergh, like Brian DePalma, is one of those directors who I think has to keep pushing himself to try new things.
Meryl Streep was part of the marketing of his 2019 Netflix movie The Laundromat, but the movie actually seemed like an anthology of excessive greed and the danger it causes as government and laws look the other way.
I’m reminded of one of his early movies, The Underneath, and how it too looked like a heist movie about an armored car robbery but was about people and their quirks. One scene has Peter Gallagher’s character being informed by his stepfather, played by Paul Dooley, to polite refuse a York Peppermint Patty when he is offered it by a supervisor played by Joe Don Baker. Then, when offered again, to take the candy and eat it in front of him, which is what happens.
Many of Soderbergh’s movies are about people not plot. Take how George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez played a criminal and law officer who knew their relationship couldn’t last in Out of Sight. Or how in that movie, Clooney’s Jack Foley is forced to shoot a man in self-defense, his first time ever using a gun and his reaction at what he just did.
If anything else, Cheadle’s performance is the anchor of this movie as a small-time criminal who is a desperate situation. He’s not a bad guy but he’s not a good guy. Cheadle has come a long way over his career and he has proven himself time and time again to be an actor who can handle comedy just as good as drama.
It’s also nice to see Fraser getting some great roles after a lot of problems in his private life as he claims to be a victim of sexual assault, dealing with injuries from stunts performed in previous movies, and a divorce settlement against him that just didn’t seem fair. Considering that Fraser hasn’t had any controversies or legal problems as other Hollywood actors who get in trouble with the law, seeing him rebound in the last few years is proof you may be down but not out and over.