Steven Soderbergh made his return to his tried-and-true crime thriller formula backed with an incredible ensemble cast. The film is one of many to have the COVID-19 pandemic affect its production, and while it would have been nice to see Sebastian Stan, John Cena, and George Clooney all in one movie, we got quite an impressive set of character actors that fill up this dimly-lit film with bright and colorful performances.
The films plot is as convoluted as some of the Oceans heist plots but weaves in so many characters that surround its main duo of Benecio Del Toro and Don Cheadle as lowly-leveled gangsters looking to get some easy work to get their way out. Along the way, the film sees most of the players that fit in the story with David Harbour playing the subject of their kidnapping, Jon Hamm as a police detective trying to find out the situation, and Kerian Culkin playing a tense associate that works with the two. As they continue on in the film, the story’s narrative gets muddled with twists and turns that seem to only prolong the inevitable dropping of flies for a lot of the cast. Formulaic in nature, but well-paced enough to remain entertaining, there is not much in terms of plot but a lot of dialogue to accompany each scene to intensify each moment.
As mentioned, the cast just falls perfectly into each role, something that Soderbergh seems to have a penchant for. Outside of the mentioned actors we also had great performances from Ray Liotta, Bill Duke, Julia Fox, and a surprise cameo from Matt Damon. The film moves from scene to scene quite quickly and while it falls under the genre of “talking heads” movies, its not a detriment to the way it maintains to have each character seem like a truly integral part of the story. An even bigger surprise, however, was the teenaged Noah Jupe in his 11th film credit to date, as he seems to be a star in the making with how he comfortably portrays emotion on camera at such a young age. While most children/teenaged actors seem to “pretend”, Noah was able to act as a true thespian with great poise.
The music and cinematography, however, is where the movie seems to be lacking. While Soderbergh has had a history of really bringing out the energy and bombastic punctuation to each scene, it seems like he was more focused on showcasing the performances themselves. This could be an editing issue as well, as it just didn’t seem as punchy as some of the other films that he is known for. Many of the scenes were shot with too little light and the persistent usage of a wide-angle lens only made each scene seem like it was even darker. It could’ve been a stylish choice and the lack of humor throughout the film did suggest that he was going for a more serious film with political undertones about capitalism at its core. Having said that, a jolt of energetic use of color could’ve helped this film greatly. But seriously, that wide-angle lens was borderline-sickening at times with how he kept panning with it.
Overall, its a good movie. It lacks a lot of the stylish quips and fast-paced editing chops of some of his best films, but retains the intelligent base of Soderbergh’s classic intellectually driven characters and themes that remain a relevant staple to the dramas of American cinema.
Favorite Scene: Matt Damon’s “Mr. Big” Monologue