A simple job turns into a corporate espionage case for two goons.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, and David Harbour
Review by Jon Kissel
Undaunted by the COVID pandemic, Stephen Soderbergh keeps up his prolific filmmaking rate with No Sudden Move, his 11th movie in the last decade, not counting his 20 episodes of The Knick. Returning to the kind of small-potatoes criminals and corporate crime that he’s made so many great films about, No Sudden Move ties the Detroit denizens of the mid-50’s into the collusion of the Big Four automakers, with most involved out of their depth when compared to the opportunity before them. What distinguishes No Sudden Move from earlier Soderbergh films, however, is the involvement of sole writer Ed Solomon. Where Soderbergh has previously worked with writers like Stephen Gaghan and Scott Z. Burns or adapted works by titan authors like Elmore Leonard, Solomon’s credits include Super Mario Brothers and the Now You See Me franchise. Soderbergh shoots and edits all his films, and this is no exception, but Solomon doesn’t provide his director with enough of the good stuff to make No Sudden Move truly stand out against Soderbergh’s considerable filmography.
My job in quality control exists because the government demands it. The huge outlays that pharmaceutical companies make for labor and equipment are only committed to because that’s the cost of doing business. The government and the company enter into an agreement that the products sold will meet certain conditions, and it’s my job to verify that they do. All kinds of audit trails and archiving exists to verify the verifiers, but there remains an interaction between the analyst and the product that, short of videotaping the analyst’s every move, relies on trust. A bad-faith actor can always find the holes in the system, especially if they work within it and especially if incentives perversely award shortcut exploitation. I Care a Lot starts with a system of good intentions and centers the person who sees the weaknesses, but we’re not talking about Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love with his pudding cups and airline miles. J Blakeson’s slick film rests on a bed of unconscionable cruelty that surpasses even the gangster-led works of someone like Martin Scorsese. The exploitation is so confrontational here that audience sympathy becomes impossible on any level, and a degree of difficulty is placed on the film that Blakeson has to work very hard to overcome.
The over-the-top nature of the films of Korean director Park Chan-wook meets his granular attention to detail in The Handmaiden. He merges the high of immaculately-dressed costume dramas with the low of a gritty heist film, a melding of genres that wildly succeeds. Park's filmography, with its oft-repeated themes of sexual taboos, vengeance, and pathetic yet deadly men, feels like its reaching a climax here, like this is the film he's always been supposed to make. The Handmaiden, drowning in sensuality and subterfuge, is at the level of the best this auteur has ever done, if not his best work to date.
Denzel Washington is such a great actor that the Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period podcast could credibly exist for years. I listened to almost every episode and the hosts never allowed for the possibility that there was an alternative to their podcast title. However, Washington hasn’t been in a great movie since the mid-2000’s depending on if one is an American Gangster, Man on Fire, or Inside Man partisan, and the greatest director he’s worked with in the last fifteen years is probably himself. He’s gone down the old-man action path far more than the prestige path. Washington’s an actor of instant name recognition who can seemingly do whatever he wants and he wants to remake the Magnificent Seven. His latest, The Little Things, is another odd choice. I doubt Washington wanted to fulfill a career goal by working with the director of The Blind Side, John Lee Hancock. The Little Things’ triple-Oscar winner main cast does nothing to elevate a script that offers essentially nothing to the serial killer genre, including Washington who’s in paycheck mode. Add the lackluster presence of Rami Malek and the terminally off-putting Jared Leto, and this is a film whose existence is completely unnecessary.
One of the more noteworthy films of 2020, if only for the various dunks upon it from film Twitter, was Netflix’s Hillbilly Elegy, a clear Oscar pitch starring two high-profile actors deglamorizing themselves in service to a rough story of semi-relevance. The reviews kept Hillbilly Elegy off my radar, but I have read the book it’s based on, and I think it’s a perfectly fine memoir that has little to say beyond its personal detail. A film that takes place decades earlier but in the same region of Appalachia is The Devil All the Time, adapted from a collection of short stories by author Donald Ray Pollock, a native of the region who didn’t officially put pen to paper until he was in his 50’s. Pollock’s writings have been adapted for the screen by Antonio Campos, a director of visceral feel-bad movies like Afterschool and Christine and a person well-suited for Pollock’s dark vision of backwoods misery and manipulation. Despite their bona fide roots, neither Campos’ film nor Hillbilly Elegy, if it’s anything like the book that is, provide much of a perceptive window onto the region, and in the case of The Devil All the Time, the miserabilism becomes predictable and meaningless. This pales in comparison to someone like Jeff Nichols, a director who cares about his setting and his characters in a way Campos is unable to here.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
Click to set custom HTML