Review: Steven Soderbergh's 'No Sudden Move' recalls film noir

A man walks a quiet street, searching for his destination while carefully observing everything he sees. He clearly knows where he is heading. But he also wonders, following the recipe for a movie thriller, what surprise he may encounter around the next corner.

Steven Soderbergh’s entertaining “No Sudden Move” takes us back to a type of film that once filled movie screens: the crime caper in which we never learn the full story until the final credits begin to roll. The Oscar-winning director shows us, moment by moment, how a confident camera can creatively connect the ingredients that make this genre such a crowd pleaser — and make watching film so much fun.

As that man – played by the always on-point Don Cheadle – walks the quiet street, we immediately suspect that something may be up. That’s what happens in crime thrillers. Within minutes, we get our first clue when Cheadle is asked to do what sounds like a simple task for a substantial amount of money. Is this on the up and up? Or is Cheadle being played? Moments later, when we meet Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, we wonder the same. Why are we listening to his banter with his married girlfriend? And could it be that she will reappear at a critical moment later in the story?

The key to a successful crime thriller – as formed during the “film noir” period of the 1940s – is that every moment is here for a reason. There are no extraneous conversations, no random exchanges, no superfluous sequences. Everything presents for a reason, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. And as the final picture comes together, a crafty filmmaker withholds the final details until the last possible moment to reveal a big surprise.

Soderbergh clearly knows the crime thriller. He confidently resists letting us know too much until just the right moment. Why is the accountant at an automobile company in Detroit in the 1950s so intent to open the safe in his boss’s office? Why do the masked intruders select his house to break in? What is behind Cheadle’s reluctance to follow the instructions he received? Why does Del Toro take matters into his own hands? And how does everyone seem to know where to show up at just the precise moment?

Adding to the fun are performances from actors clearly enjoying the chance to exaggerate their portrayals. Cheadle, always authentic on screen, includes a slight irreverence that gives his performance an entertaining edge, while the often intense Del Toro reveals a lighter side that makes his character accessible. Rounding the cast are the always watchable John Hamm and a welcome return for Brendan Fraser in a surprising role.

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Quick Summary: No Sudden Move

Content: High. Crime thriller follows just the right narrative route to surprise.

Entertainment: High. Director Steven Soderbergh films a classic tale with a lot of his standard style while inspiring his cast to deliver strong performances.

Message: High. We don't watch crime thrillers for a message. We savor the fun.

Relevance: High. Any opportunity to take a return trip to "film noir" of the 1940s is welcome. But this is not a family film.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you enjoy this film, think about the classic crime thrillers Soderbergh must have had on his mind.

Soderbergh is, again, a visual wonder, making every shot compelling to see, from how he captures the streets to his detailed recreation of a 1950s home. The director’s ever-curious lens celebrates every moment so we don't miss a thing. And, when the payoff comes, the movie delivers. Enjoy.                                                                                                       

“No Sudden Move” runs 1 hour and 53 minutes, is Rated R for violence, and is showing in theaters and streaming at HBO Max.