No Sudden Move

* * * *

Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move is familiar territory for him, as cosy for those of us who love his work as a warm blanket. There are multiple echoes, homages, illusions and references to his previous work – especially in the casting, but also thematically, stylistically and tonally – wrapped up in a period piece, which is the most unusual aspect of the material for him.

That period is the 50s; the place, though, is Detroit, and seeing top-billed Don Cheadle in a mansion there – with a gun, no less – obviously evokes the incredible third act of Out of Sight. Indeed, Cheadle’s character here, Curt Goynes, is like an alternative version of Out of Sight’s Maurice Miller: there’s a stingingly direct reference to a prison stabbing that, in the right cinema with the right audience, would elicit howls of self-satisfaction.

Goynes is offered five Gs at the beginning of the film for a three hour (criminal) job; his partners in this crime will be played by Benicio Del Toro and Kieran Culkin, and along the way, as things get more and more and more and more complicated, he’ll encounter characters played by, among many others, Jon Hamm, Bill Duke, David Harbour, Brendan Fraser, Amy Seimetz, Julia Fox and Ray Liotta. Everyone has a great time playing various levels of scuzzbucket; so do we. This is Soderbergh very much en forme, working from a terrific script by Ed Solomon, and the film’s pleasures are constant and rich.



* * 1/2

It’s hard to know why Steven Soderbergh made Unsane, which is not to say it’s not worth seeing. It’s a lot of fun, a cheapie B-Movie exploitation asylum flick, a weird sub-genre that is constantly weakening but never fully dies – witness 2016’s strangely expensive flop A Cure For Wellness.

That film cost forty million bucks, which is really a lot for this type of fare. Unsane, shot by Soderbergh on an iPhone – dare I say shot by Soderbergh on his iPhone? – has the feel of a labor of love made on weekends, in sequence, edited in camera, for, basically, nothing. And maybe it was, and maybe that’s why Soderbergh made it. He loves to dabble.

If this was the debut from some unknown kid at a cool indie film festival, it would garner attention, possible distribution, and, in all likelihood, a modest deal for the filmmaker as an option on their next work. Coming from Soderbergh, who has directed thirty full-length feature films, including some masterpieces, this is minor work, to be shelved alongside Full Frontal and Bubble, although, as a psychiatric thriller, it is far and away closest in tone to Side Effects (2013). Indeed, having made that quirky little freakshow, it’s odd – again! – that he’s made this, which feels like that film’s poor, handmade cousin (and Side Effects was hardly a major cinematic event, despite its qualities).

Indeed, there’d be no reason to endorse this little oddity as anything other than seeing what good ol’ Steve is doing on weekends were it not for Claire Foy, who plays a woman who may or may not be going through a psychotic episode that may or may not stem from a stalking incident. She’s doing an American accent here, and the cynic in me wonders if that’s why Soderbergh made the film – to do her a solid and give her a platform to show a side of her that isn’t terribly British (she plays, on Netflix, for twenty hours, The Queen). It’s certainly an acting vehicle, and she’s good enough to get you through it. I hadn’t seen her work before; this enjoyably campy, lurid little ride was a fun introduction.

Logan Lucky


*** (out of five)

Steven Soderbergh returns from a self-proclaimed retirement from theatrically-released feature filmmaking with what he’s best at (and the modern cinematic master of) – the genial ensemble heist comedy.

Having presumably seen The Italian Job (1969) an awful lot during his formative years, Soderbergh exquisitely nailed the form over and again with Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, and the spirit inherent in those films – friendly, upbeat, light, gently funny – infuses The Informant! and Magic Mike as well. In each of these films Soderbergh deploys an exceptionally cast ensemble whose characters are all unique, well-rounded and truely likeable. By the time the credits roll, all you want to do is hang out and drink beer with this scoundrels, scallywags and hustlers.

Logan Lucky is not the precision near-masterpiece that Out of Sight is, nor as tight or funny as the Ocean’s films, but it’s certainly got all the requisite qualities, and by the end, the same effect (which, as you’ll see in this film, applies significantly). It goes down smooth and easy. The heist itself (a racetrack during a motor race) is clever if not breath-taking, the milieu (West Virginia) amusing and pretty if not exotic, and the jokes raise a smile rather than provoke a laugh. But you really see Soderbergh for the characters, and every one here – played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough and in particular Daniel Craig – delights. (There is also a large further ensemble of recognisable faces such as Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Jim O’Heir, Dwight Yoakam, Hilary Swank, Macon Blair and Sebastian Stan.)

Craig is a fabulous actor. Going completely against type when your type is Best Bond Ever, he plays a tattooed cracker safe-cracker. His Southern accent may not be vocal-coach pitch-perfect, but nobody’s is (they’re all doing them), and who cares? Unlike with his Bond, Craig’s incredible eyes here pierce you not with their intelligence but their simple self-belief – a fine but impressive distinction.

Have fun! Soderbergh and his actors clearly did. So did I.