No Sudden Move has some real notable names as a part of the ensemble. Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm, Bill Duke, and Ray Liotta all had their roles to play in this time-period, mobster film. According to HBO Max’s brief description, “recently released from prison, Curtis Goynes (Don Cheadle) descends into the tangled underbelly of a rapidly changing 1950s Detroit after teaming with a band of criminals for a seemingly simple job…with dire consequences.”
From the beginning, the audience could expect multiple twists and turns. Be honest, it is not a real gangster movie unless one or more players get betrayed over the main prize. So, we begin with three “workers” sent to babysit a family while the patriarch retrieves some documents from his boss’s safe. After the man comes up empty, one of the “workers” tries to kill the family along with his two colleagues, but Curtis kills him first. Thus, the first layer of betrayal happens.
Curtis and Ronald (Benicio Del Toro) leave to create a new plan where they do not get double-crossed and murdered, and they let the patriarch (David Harbour) know that they will need his assistance soon. As the police get involved in what the family tries to spin as a home invasion turned self-defense murder, Officer Finney (Jon Hamm) clearly can tell that there is more going on. So, he trails safely behind as the madness and backstabbing continues.
Curtis also has a sideline story about a Gotham Hotel deal gone bad, which appears to come full circle when he retrieves the missing “code book” that a mafia boss had on all the details of his illegal business. He turns over said book at Hotel Gotham to Aldrick Watkins (Bill Duke) after swindling multiple people into paying for the document he also got from the patriarch from earlier. Before the climax scene at Hotel Gotham, he asks the right questions of the right key players and sets up payment from as many as he can, which seems to be the riskiest move ever since he could easily be betrayed again by any of the higher-up players like Mr. Big/Michael Lowenstein (Matt Damon) who hands over $375,000 when they meet for the document. The book and document are hot commodities to say the least.
To be honest, the actual secret document is a bit unclear, and it takes away from the storylines of betrayal and power. Because the audience may not understand what everyone is trying to hide about the document, it seems trivial and confusing as the story develops to show how everyone wanted a piece of the action. So many people thought they would receive the payout, yet in the end, Mr. Big, who also foreshadowed that in the end he would win and always have more money after giving Curtis and Ronald all that money, gets his money back with the help of Officer Finney. Ronald, who almost makes it scot-free with the money and his lover, is murdered by her and left in the woods to die. Curtis seems to be betrayed by Aldrick, but it turns out he was the only one who could be trusted. Curtis walks away after trying to get all the money and make all the moves with just $5,000 because his goal the entire time was to pay for some land that he lost.
With all these storylines all coming together over money and the document, one would think it was shaping up to be a classic, modern mafia tale of greed and power. But there was an element missing. The cinematography was great. The costumes and set design were believable for the period. It was like the audience was constantly in a fishbowl watching everything unfold, and with so much betrayal, there was enough tension to keep the audience’s attention. But, again, there was something missing that made the film fall flat.
Sometimes, doing what is expected of a period-piece can let the film down. It had the betrayal, lust, greed, underdog parts that most, if not all, gangster movies have, but there was no spark. It was too typical, and some parts of the story were unclear, which made them seem pointless. With high hopes because of the cast, the film at best is something to look at but not give all your attention to when you have two hours to waste.