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Soderberg’s No Sudden Move Is As Good As His Best



No Sudden Move

No Sudden Move (HBO Max)

Starring: Don CheadleBenicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan FraserKieran Culkin, Noah Jupe

Directed by Steven Soderberg

Rating: *** ½

For my money and  time Steven Soderberg is  among the ten most  intriguing storytellers  in American cinema. Didn’t he take Meryl Streep and her pals  on  a revealing cruise  in  Let Them All Talk  just  some months ago?

No  Sudden Moves is  a far more complex yarn. The characters caught in a  web  of  monetary  deceit , seem to be constantly  lying to one another, sometimes  unaware  of  their  untruth. The  plot is  a puddle  of  simmering possibilities  and threats. Danger lurks in  a very  peculiar almost  casual way, and when our dread is manifested in  the dead, there is no self-congratulation as the characters  move from one level  of  crime to another.

It all begins in  1950s in  Detroit, the city of motorcars  which play a crucial part in  the plot,   with  an average  suburban family  being  held  at ransom while the  father  of the family Matt(David Harbor)  is sent to get some documents  from his  office in exchange  for his family’s safety.

Soon one  of  the three criminals Charley(Kieren  Culkin) is  dead on the floor  of the  family’s kitchen. The  surviving criminals Curt (Don Cheadle)   and Ronald (Benicio del Toro)  then  become the  moral fulcrum of  a plot so dense  in construction and  movement  it  stays  at least 5 steps ahead  of our expectations .  For a  while the  plot stays  with  Curt and Ronald. But they aren’t really  the heroes of  a story whose construct suggests a rapid erosion  of  values  at  the top , seeping into the lower echelons.

No  one   is  freed from deceit except perhaps  Matt’s  little daughter.I am not too sure about her  either. His son(Noah  Jupe, an emerging star)  is  pulling off his own   little confessional compromises with  the detective  on  duty(Jon Hamm, who  in  spite of that  incriminating name is  not a ham).

 It all seems  to scatter and run into various directions, all dark and  inviting. Master storyteller that he is, with a  firm  grip  over the grammar of  greed and  retribution, Steven Soderberg remains in full control of his  characters , letting them run into blind alleys   where they meet their nemesis without much acrimony. The course of Ronald’s liaison with the  sexy  Vanessa(Julia Fox) is  the stuff that Steven Soderberg’s fan can roll their tongues around. Women  in Steven Soderberg’s  cinema are seldom trustworthy.

No Sudden  Moves  is filled sudden moves that  transport the covetous characters into  dilemmas they  never foresee. As is the wont in Soderberg’s cinema, some  of  the  violence is savagely  funny. I am not into brutality for laughs. But  the apologetic   manner in which Matt punches his boss with the  reverent  attitude of a man who has to do what  he has to, is priceless.

Downstairs  Ronald who has accompanied Matt to his  boss’s home,  gently puts a sheet on the boss’  genteel  wife’s  whimpering  face , so he can take off his mask  and relax.

That  never really happens. The masks that the characters wear never come  off and we never get to  relax. No Sudden Moves is  not easy to follow. I’ve watched it twice. And  I still don’t know the exact purpose of  every character. Not that  it matters. Everyone in Steven Soderberg’s universe  is  doing what he  or she  has to . If blood is  spilt  in  the process,  so be it.

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