• Nate Adams

Review: Steven Soderbergh's Detroit set caper 'No Sudden Move' his best in years


Courtesy of HBO Max

The first high profile film to be shot (and based) in Detroit for nearly a decade, Steven Soderbergh’s thrilling and twisty “No Sudden Move” is the director’s best effort going back to 2013’s “Side Effects.” While he’s directed other features since then - “High Flying Bird” and “Unsane” - “No Sudden Move” marks a return to normalcy for the Oscar winner, an old fashion, stylized caper without gimmicks (it wasn’t shot on an I-phone) and a hellacious ensemble that only he can demand.


I was fortunate enough to screen “No Sudden Move” in a theater, but most audiences will catch the film at home on HBO Max. Sure it was fun noticing prominent Detroit locations/landmarks sitting in the background as Don Cheadle walks into frame (eagle eyed Michiganders will be pleased to see the Masonic Temple, areas of Brownstown and the Fisher Building) but the movie isn’t large in scale and won’t be diminished by a small screen viewing. What matters in this case is Ed Solomon’s tight screenplay and Soderbergh flirting with the same formula that made his “Ocean’s” series widely entertaining. But “No Sudden Move,” in an ironic and refreshing way, deconstructs the standard heist movie cliches with the energy of the director’s previous outings. It’s not necessarily about the plot, but the destination and relationships molded along the way.


Such is the case in “No Sudden Move,” set in 1954 Detroit where we meet Curt Goynes (Cheadle), a lowly thief fresh out of the joint looking to get what is his. He links up with a man who only goes by the name of Jones (Brenden Fraser - looking completely unrecognizable, but happy to see him here) to try and turn over a quick buck so he can secure a plot of land stolen long ago. Curt doesn’t think much of Jones, a small cog in a giant mafia ecosystem looking for reliable help to pull off a gig, at first, but in typical Soderbergh fashion, everything is held close to the vest until the entire can is unspooled.


Everything hits the fan when Curt, along with hired help Ronald Russo (Benico Del Toro) and Charley (Kieran Culkin), invade the home of Matt Wertz (David Harbour), a worker for a high profile automotive company, who needs to secure an envelope from his bosses safe. As the job lingers on, ulterior motives are revealed among the group, sending characters on the run in a mad dash of double crosses, rendezvous and greedy lust.


The chaotic plotting may or may involve the likes of a skeptical detective (Jon Ham); a local mobster (Ray Liotta), his cheating wife (Julia Fox); a fellow crime lord (the always wonderful Bill Duke); and a prominent Soderberg staple whose reveal will not be spoiled here. The constant maneuvering from one character to the next can become a convoluted chore, but to Soderbergh’s credit, he intertwines several plots (and pays homage to Detroit’s automotive industry ten fold) into one crafty, darkly comedic canvas. That it was shot and made in our backyard is icing on the cake.

Grade: B+


NO SUDDEN MOVE debuts on HBO Max, Thursday July 1st.