“No Sudden Move” is all surface and no substance

Don Cheadle in No Sudden Move

My first thought after finishing No Sudden Move last night was “what the hell went wrong?” (Spoilers below, so beware.)

No Sudden Move is a heist film, though you really pick this up only in dribs and drabs. Oh, and it’s also a big deal because the heist isn’t about jewels or money, it’s about a document. But, again, you only learn a little bit at a time the importance of the document and why it should matter.

Until they drop the hammer at the end of the movie, that is, with the reveal.

By then you’ve sat through two hours of trying to piece together “what the hell is going on with this movie?”

The movie sort of feels like a big, expensive Lego kit. All the pieces are there, but the kids got bored and instead of finishing the Death Star they sort of cobbled together a half-assed stack of blocks with Darth Vader sitting on top.

Too many pieces

No Sudden Move is chock full of amazing actors. Its saving grace is that the cast seems to know what’s going on even though the viewers don’t.

There’s a lot of backstory and depth hinted at that isn’t actually sketched in, or it’s dropped in awkwardly through the movie almost as an afterthought. My guess is that the actors knew far more about the characters they were playing than the movie cared to display.

Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour and Jon Hamm are all on the money. I’ll watch damn near anything with Don Cheadle in it, and that seems to be what Steven Soderbergh was counting on here.

The plot is underdeveloped and over-complicated. A good heist movie can be complicated, but you have to be able to be in on the gig. As a viewer it doesn’t work when you’re too busy trying to figure out the plot to get pleasure out of the Rube Goldberg machinery required to pull off a successful heist.

The end of the film just felt cheap and tagged on. The document could have been anything and it held damn little sway in the actual film. But the end of the film tries to up-level the stakes of the heist by giving historical weight to the object of the heist without having done the work during the film itself. That’s a failure.

The movie also toys with racial themes without actually delving into them. Again, it felt like a half-assed attempt to give some weight to the movie without actually doing the work.

Why the fish-eye lens?

As a retro movie, the film is full of period costumes, old cars and sets full of nostalgia. The overall visual tone is great. Except… for the fish-eye.

There is a weird fish-eye effect going on throughout the movie. It’s most noticeable in long shots, less so in close-ups or medium shots. At first I was wondering if there was something wrong with the streaming or my TV.

No, apparently this was intentional. It doesn’t lend anything to the film and often detracts from it.

Craig muMs Grant

I wanted to specifically give a call out to Craig muMs Grant, a really powerful actor who never quite got the spotlight he deserved.

Folks who watched Oz will recognize muMs as Poet, and he’s popped up in a lot of bit parts since. He’s got a small role in No Sudden Move,  and he’s intense and fun to watch. I was sad to learn while perusing IMDb that he passed away earlier this year due to complications due to diabetes at 52.

Almost adequate

No Sudden Move is almost adequate as a summer heist flick. If you’re willing to glide by on tropes instead of actual storytelling, it’ll fill an evening or give you something to put on in the background while toying with your phone. The performances take it a long way, but they can’t quite overcome the gaps in the story.

Author: Joe Brockmeier

Editor, writer, communications expert, former community manager, open source enthusiast, music nut, and cat guy. Not necessarily in that order.

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