Steven Soderbergh (“Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Michael Clayton”) has a new movie streaming on HBO Max with a killer cast. The leads are Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro. The rest of the cast includes David Harbour (“Revolutionary Road,” “Stranger Things”); Brendan Frasier (“The Mummy”); Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”); Kieran Culkin (“Succession,” “Igby Goes Down”); Noah Jupe (“Ford versus Ferrari,” “A Quiet Place”); Bill Duke (“Predator,” “American Gigolo”); Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”); and Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”).
The odd thing about this impressive list of actors is that Matt Damon doesn’t appear on the credits at any point. He appears in a somewhat pivotal role, but is not listed on IMDB, in the credits at the end, or in the P.R. for the movie.
The beginning of the film is very impressive; it sucks us in immediately. Some bad guys are hired to retrieve something from a safe. Every time an amount is mentioned for the task to be performed it changes. The audience is not clear in the beginning what is being retrieved. What’s in the safe? Is it diamonds? Is it a little black book that lists Mafia members? Is it pictures meant to blackmail some important person? The log-line online says: “A group of criminals are brought together under mysterious circumstances and have to work together to uncover what’s really going on when their simple job goes completely sideways”
A family is taken hostage and the father (David Harbour) is instructed to get the contents of the envelope in the safe at his office and bring them back to his home. If he doesn’t, his wife and son and daughter are in peril, being held hostage by Don Cheadle and Kieran Culkin who are masked in the world’s worst identity-concealing masks and are holding the family at gunpoint.
The son, Matthew Wertz, Jr.—Noah Jupe of “Ford vs Ferrari” and “A Quiet Place”—is 16 now, and it shows. He is no longer the small boy of those previous films. While the actress playing Noah’s Mom (Amy Seinmetz) as Mary Wertz is good, Julia Fox, who plays Benicio del Toro’s love interest is not very good. She has very few career credits; they only go back to 2018. “Uncut Gems,” in which she played a character also named Julia, was about the most impressive and memorable of those listed. She even appeared in an interview talking about her relative lack of experience when measured against the majority of the cast members. This was not promising, and her fears about her performance as Vanessa were fulfilled.
I paid close attention and even while paying careful attention to the plot, it was tough sledding. The characters throw around names when we haven’t really figured out who these people are yet. It wasn’t until a conversation that Don Cheadle makes from a phone booth (the film is set in 1954 Detroit) that I even developed a coherent theory about what the plot involved. (Note: in the final frames of the film, Soderbergh will synopsize the entire plot in a few brief paragraphs, so don’t worry about leaving the movie without knowing what it was all about.)
The film looked terrific and it was very complicated and, for the most part, well-written and well-acted. Not a “10” on a 10-point scale, but better than most of the original films that are currently streaming.