Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro Are Uneasy Allies in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘No Sudden Move’

Set in 1955 Detroit, “No Sudden Move” is a crime drama from Steven Soderbergh where America’s underbelly of organized crime and the auto industry collide. Don Cheadle stars as Curt Goynes, a man recently released from prison who falls right back into a life of crime. Benicio Del Toro plays the kind of role he does best here as Ronald Russo, Curt’s partner in this job, one that was supposed to be simple but goes off the rails.

The journey in “No Sudden Move” has lots of twists and turns, but it starts off fairly simple. Curt and Ronald, who have no previous history together, are hired by a mob enforcer named Jones (Brendan Fraser), to hold a family at gunpoint, wife Mary Wertz (Amy Seimetz) and her two kids, including Matthew Jr. (Noah Jupe), while a third man, Charley (Kieran Culkin), takes husband Matt (David Harbour), a mid-level General Motors employee, back to his office in order to snatch an important document from a safe belonging to his boss (Hugh Maguire). Matt is ostensibly chosen due to his affair with his boss’ secretary, Paula (Frankie Shaw). Harbour provides some comic relief as this bumbling man who is in over his head, especially when he’s being confronted by Paula about their future plans while he is looking for the document, her unaware that he’s being held hostage. 

Things take a turn after Matt is unable to find the document in the office. Soon, there’s a dead body in his kitchen, and this is when Joe Finney (Jon Hamm), a detective specializing in organized crime, enters the picture. Detective Finney is tragically underwritten, but there are other interesting characters to hold our attention, including Ray Liotta as gangster Frank Capelli, whose much younger wife, Vanessa (scene-stealer Julia Fox), is having an affair with Ronald. There’s also Aldrick Watkins (Bill Duke), a more fearsome gangster who has some serious beef with Curt due to Curt having taken a book from him containing top-secret info about his own criminal enterprise. 

Curt and Ronald make their way into the office of an unscrupulous business tycoon known only as Mr. Big (Matt Damon). Here, Damon plays a small but pivotal role, as his character ties up loose ends. Through him, we learn about the role certain corporations played in stopping technological advancements for the sake of profit.

Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon do a great job of not getting carried away with the 1950s setting. There are eye-catching costumes and cool cars, but the film is not overly stylized. And while the three main actresses play roles somewhat stereotypical for the time period they are fully fleshed out and serve as more than just accessories for their male counterparts. Seimetz gives an especially impressive performance as this already frustrated wife who finds herself not only fearing for her own life, but also the lives of her children.

“No Sudden Move” is very much a character-driven film, and Cheadle and Del Toro do a great job playing off of each other. Curt and Ronald do not trust each other, and it’s not just because they have very different personalities, or that one is Black and the other is Italian (as we learn a little bit about a rivalry between Black and Italian gangs in Detroit during this time). While both are definitely motivated by money and power, Curt is the more ambitious of the two. Ronald, meanwhile, drinks too much and looks like he’s about to say, “I’m getting too old for this shit” any minute. Still, he’s a risk-taker, which is evident from his messing around with Vanessa. In the end, Soderbergh and Solomon make a point about how addicting a life of crime and vice can be. Crime doesn’t pay for most of the players here, or at least it doesn’t pay a lot.

No Sudden Move” begins streaming July 1 on HBO Max.