Steven Soderbergh’s lustfully absurd thriller “No Sudden Move” is a celebration of failed expectations
Alfred Hitchcock probably didn’t invent what he called the “MacGuffin”, but what a spook he started with! Probably no one who has written scripts in the last sixty years has not flirted now and then with the temptation to go the wrong way and drifting narrative threads.
Just as Hitchcock erased a main storyline in “Psycho” with the murder of Janet Leigh’s film character, Steven Soderbergh built a whole labyrinth of narrative dead ends in “Sudden Move”. The fact that it goes on all the more daring in each of these walled-up corridors doesn’t make writing about it any easier: Who likes to talk about things that don’t lead to anything? And who likes to reveal the all the more surprising twists that open up instead?
Perhaps the limited shooting under Corona conditions spurred Steven Soderbergh’s desire to stage small pieces of the puzzle. Located in America’s once glorious auto city Detroit in 1954, the atmospheric images of pastel-colored road cruisers and David Holmes’ groovy film music ensure external cohesion.
It starts with three criminals (Benicio Del Toro, Don Cheadle and Kieran Culkin) who are hired by a gang boss played by Ray Liotta to get hold of a mysterious document. The way there is complicated and fails immediately: To get a shirt-sleeved employee to open the safe in question, you first take his family hostage.
But the man has completely different worries: The combination only knows the secretary, who is frustrated about the mutual affair. In short, things go wrong, the document is lost, a minor character loses their life and a gang boss gets angry. At the same time, other supposed minor characters emerge from the shadows of our misguided expectations: The secretary (Frankie Shaw) surprises with her own criminal energy, just as the gang boss’s wife has it behind the ears.
You are happy to see a detective who will hopefully bring order, played by Jon Hamm: Nobody can express straightforwardness in a cool way like the former “Don Draper” from “Mad Men”. Soderbergh seems to have found the perfect film noir detective in him, but that too would only be an expectation that needs to be countered.
Is anyone still thinking about the document to be stolen? In the tradition of crime classics like “The Falcon’s Trail”, the object of desire is little more than another enigma – in this case it casts surprising shadows ahead of you, you can hardly believe it, the curse of the automobile and the impending destruction of the planet .
Could it be that the critic wrote more logic in the story than it actually contains? Soderbergh, this great intellectual of American genre cinema, is always smarter than anyone who watches him anyway. There is nothing that he cannot bring to the screen – except maybe human warmth, at least since he led Julia Roberts to Oscar honors in “Erin Brokovich”. In this dazzling farce, however, there is no need for great feelings.
One of the many surprises that Soderbergh conjures up out of his hat is a veritable Hollywood star in the third act who is not in the opening credits. And whose appearance cannot be viewed as a mere cameo, but opens up a completely new perspective on the absurd plot. Incidentally, those responsible for the slightly bulging-eyed camera and the daring editing are also unnamed – at least with a real name – in both cases it is Steven Soderbergh.
It’s really a bit like Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” only the other way around: the master of suspense hired a great movie star, Janet Leigh, only to get rid of him in the most spectacular of all film murders of his career. Soderbergh hires a movie star, whose name is not mentioned, only to end up with his help to combine a few of the tangled narrative threads into something new. Suddenly, however, you look at it like a messy pile of broken glass, a broken mirror cabinet from a gangster film, and notice the beauty in the chaos. This is also a celebration of the cinema, because no other art form can do something like this. And what better way to celebrate the opening after the corona restrictions?
No Sudden Move. USA 2021. Regie: Steven Soderbergh. 90 Min.