Reviews & More: Better Than I’d Hoped

“No Sudden Move” (HBO Max) The names were enough of an attraction to make me watch: Steven Soderbergh. Don Cheadle. Benicio del Toro. A caper film set in Detroit in the 1950s. So, I tuned in, and was I glad I had. The film takes too long to wind up, but that’s about all I found wrong with this small gem. Under Soderbergh’s masterful direction, a terrific script (by Ed Solomon) sets up one of those situations where a simple robbery turns into a nightmare; whatever can go wrong goes wrong. Whatever outcome you expect is not what happens. Whomever you trust and like turns out to make a series of smart-appearing but wrong moves. Cheadle and del Toro, their characters thrown together and creating a somewhat mistrustful partnership, are both perfect as achingly imperfect hoods with checkered pasts, doing the best they can but each with hidden agendas. There is some violence, but there is also rapid-fire tension, a lot of humor, superb production values and a pitch-perfect supporting cast. 

“Unforgotten” (PBS Passport) All of the episodes of this fine offering from PBS Masterpiece Mystery are available to stream on PBS Passport (which, if you contribute regularly to your local station, is free.) This fourth and final season is definitely one of the best. We last saw DCI Cassie Stuart (the superb Nicola Walker) deciding to retire early, traumatized by too many years of corpses and the ugliness that murder investigations rake up. But she’s had to come back because she’s three months shy of being able to collect her full pension. And she’s short-tempered and haunted by this (literal) cold case: A body found in a discarded freezer. It’s been 30 years and there are several suspects still around. We really don’t know how it will end but the script is so good at creating characters who are flawed but well-intentioned and the actors playing them are so perfectly cast that no matter who is found to be the guilty person, we will not feel satisfied. We have come to care for—or at least have compassion for—all of them. The ending is a shocker and it accomplishes the task of letting us know that when they say it’s the final season, they mean it.

“The Old Guard” (Netflix) When I read about this 2020 film I was not going to go out of my way to see it. It featured Charlize Theron in one of her favorite film personas—short, cropped hair, superbly toned, ridiculously strong and battle-ready. It was based on a graphic novel and had some sci-fi elements and lots of action. Not my first choice. But my daughter insisted so I gave it a chance and, yes, I was swept away. Most of the story elements are not new. We have the mad scientist, the search for human longevity, the fact that family can be either biological or one you create. This mad scientist is the CEO of a Big Pharma corporation and this family is a ragtag bunch of warriors for good—true heroes—and led by Andy, Theron’s character. The twist? Each of them cannot die, no matter what.

It’s a slam-dunk of an action movie. The pace is brisk, the script is solid, the fight scenes brilliantly choreographed. Theron is perfect as the warrior leader who is tired and depressed and would like her life to—finally—end. Intriguing, yes? There is a manhunt going on for this group. The FBI is looking for the group to get them to fight for the U.S. A former FBI agent wants to benefit mankind by studying their genetic makeup. The Big Pharma CEO is looking to corner the world market with a “miracle drug.” I thoroughly commend the source material by Greg Rucka, who also wrote the screenplay, director Gina Prince-Bythewood and Theron’s excellent supporting cast (Matthias Schoenaerts, Kiki Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor). Do not be put off by its roots in graphic novels; some of the best work in fiction is being produced in that genre right now.

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