Twisting allegiances and fast-paced dialogue populate the crime-filled world of Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move. Powered by a solid lead performance from Don Cheadle, the film rewards noir and crime fans who soak in the atmosphere.
Cheadle stars as Curt Goynes, a Detroit gangster looking to skip town. He is recruited by Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser) to threaten a family as a part of a blackmail scheme. He joined by other gangsters Charley (Kieran Culkin) and Ronald Russo (Benicio del Toro). While on assignment, the father of the family Matt (David Harbour) collects the documents while the three babysit the family. Things go awry which sends Curt and Ronald out for their cut of what was promised to them.
Along the way, the run afoul of the local police in the form of Detective Joe Finney (Jon Hamm), Italian mob leader Frank Capeli (Ray Liotta) and Black mob leader Aldrick Watkins (Bill Duke). Curt and Ronald attempt to save themselves and get what is theirs along the way.
If the cast of characters seemed confusing, don’t be alarmed – I left out four or five major players. Curt and Ronald are the primary focus, but each and every person in the film gets their own little chance to shine. The characters feel real and populate real corners of the crime-heavy levels of Detroit society.
Shifting motives and twisty points drive the film forward. Despite the characters being forced into this situation together, the two main characters never share any affection or grow closer. Each have their own agendas and butt up against each other to achieve those agendas. Cheadle and del Toro do a fine job of making their characters likeable despite doing very little to earn that likeability. Cheadle especially is so steady when on-screen while del Toro feels so shifty that the film stakes its claim to whom the hero is at an early point.
Harbor seems ubiqutous in film these days, and his lack of confidence and doughiness play the character well. Special note to Harbour’s on-screen wife Amy Seimetz, who plays equal parts frazzled, vindicated, comical and relieved at various points in the film. Her character was the one I wish had more to do and more depth, despite the brilliance of her performance.
Liotta, Hamm and Culkin do exactly what is expected of their stereotypes while Julia Fox also is carving out a nice niche as a mistress who knows more than what she leads on. It’s also nice to see Fraser back on our screens.
Soderbergh makes a lot of big narrative leaps, but ultimately rings fairly hollow. Of all the twists and turns the film takes, the final frames leave you feeling intentionally hollow about the craziness that has transpired. No Sudden Move is highly enjoyable but felt like it should have strived for more.