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The great director Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, No Sudden Move, was recently released on HBO Max.  The film stars Don Cheadle as Curt Goynes, a man just released from prison.  Needing cash, he takes a job along with another criminal named Ronald Russo (Benicio del Toro).  They each take an immediate dislike to the other but are forced to rely on one another when the job goes wrong and they find themselves on the run from a mess of other criminals, both of the gangster type and the rich white collar type.

This film has a hell of a cast.  It’s great fun seeing Don Cheadle back in a leading role.  Mr. Cheadle (who previously appeared in Mr. Soderbergh’s Oceans 11 films, as well as Out of Sight and Traffic) is great as Curt.  He plays Curt as tough and brave but flawed; this is a classic noir protagonist for whom we’re not sure things are actually going to work out.  I love the oil and water pairing of Mr. Cheadle and Benicio del Toro, and some of the best parts of the film are when the two get to bounce off of one another.  Ronald Russo is another in Mr. del Toro’s collection of scummy but still lovable characters.  David Harbour (Stranger Things, Hellboy, Black Widow) is fantastic as Matt Wertz, the poor sap who has access to the documents that the criminals want/need.  I haven’t seen Brendan Fraser (The Mummy films, The Quiet American) on screen in years; it’s fun to see him here as Doug Jones, the criminal fixer who connects Curt and Ronald for the job.  Jon Hamm brings his perfect Jon Hamm square jaw and charisma to the part of Joe Finney, the detective assigned to investigate the events that go wrong at Matt Wertz’s house.  Ray Liotta and Bill Duke are both terrific as dueling crime bosses.  Matt Damon pops up late in the film for a critical scene as a wealthy businessman who is just as much a criminal as the street-level hoods we’ve been following for much of the film.  Amy Seimetz has a small but important role as Matt’s wife Mary Wertz.  Julia Fox (Uncut Gems) is great as Vanessa, the wife of Ray Liotta’s crime boss Frank Capelli.  Kieran Culkin is great as an unhinged criminal, Charley.  What a cast that is!!

I liked No Sudden Move, though I didn’t quite love the film the way I’d expected to based on Mr. Soderbergh’s being at the helm and the incredible cast he assembled.  Frankly, the film’s sort of generic title (which doesn’t really mean anything, nor does it seem to me to connect … [continued]

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As Sicario opens, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) raid a house in Arizona looking for kidnapping victims, only to discover that hidden inside the walls of the house are the gruesome remains of dozens of dead victims of the drug cartels.  Kate agrees to be reassigned to a team of men hunting the cartels, despite the shadowy nature of some of the men involved, including Matt (Josh Brolin), who Kate suspects is a CIA agent, and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) a man who seems to have inside knowledge of the cartels.  Kate is taken off-guard that the team’s first mission takes them outside the U.S. and to Juarez, Mexico to extradite a prisoner.  On the way out, they find themselves in a violent shootout with cartel men in the middle of a crowded bridge.  Kate has found herself suddenly surrounded in a world of terrible violence and increasingly murky morality, as the actions of Matt and Alejandro and their team seem to be of questionable legality at best.  To what end will she allow herself to go in pursuit of the cartel head-honchos?  Just what sorts of means will justify their ends?

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Sicario is a tense thrilled that had me quite on the edge of my seat for much of its run-time.  I like the way the film throws the audience into the story, not giving us (or Kate, our main character) much chance to catch our breath or to get our bearings.  I enjoyed the murky moral questions that the film, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Denis Villeneuve, raises.

But I didn’t quite love the film the way so many other reviewers seemed to.  Throughout the film I found myself repeatedly scratching my head as to why Matt (Josh Brolin) behaves like such a dick to Kate, and why she tolerates that behavior.  Sicario is a film whose story only really works if you accept the notion that Matt will withhold key information from Kate until late in the third act, and that Kate will continue to go along with what’s happening without insisting on someone giving her a straight answer.  Part of my brain can accept this, thinking that people go along with all sorts of things when they want to fit in and look like a good, agreeable person to their bosses in an effort to get ahead.  I can see this being even more of an issue in Kate’s case, a woman who, despite the film showing us her smarts and competence, is nonetheless the lone woman among all these alpha dog males.  On the other hand, the other part of my brain recognizes the withholding … [continued]