It seems we’re knee-deep in the age of well-known directors making movies that are too confusing and convoluted to finish. First for me was Tenet. Got 1:45 minutes into it and, while I thought I had an idea what was happening, upon seeing there was still another HOUR left of the film, I swore at the TV and turned it off.
Second was Steven Soderbergh’s new HBO Max Original No Sudden Move. The cast alone piqued my interest and I love a good noir film. But once again, I got about 45 minutes into the movie and turned it off because I had no idea what was happening.
Is it fair to review a film I didn’t finish?
I think so because I tried to watch it and couldn’t. That to me is grounds for an honest review of what I did see and why I couldn’t continue. The story seems pretty straight forward. Ex-con Curt (Don Cheadle) is hired by a guy in a car named Jones (Brendan Fraser) to babysit a guy’s family for three hours while they take him to his office to get a document from his boss’s safe. And he’ll get $3,000 for it (and in 1950’s money to boot).
Ok, interesting premise.
We then meet Ronald (Benicio Del Torro) who’s having an affair with a woman who’s name I didn’t get. He also meets Jones and is annoyed Curt is in the backseat because he likes the backseat (and apparently doesn’t like black guys either, I guess? Implied or perceived racism either way).
They then meet Charley (Kieran Culkin) who’s shady AF but will be running this job. They mask up and head to Matt Wertz’s home (David Harbour). The plan is to take Wertz to his office, collect the document from his boss’s safe, and come home. Curt and Ronald will make sure his family doesn’t do anything to jeopardize the job.
Easy peasy, right?
Things go sideways pretty quickly, but I wasn’t sure why. Wertz was having an affair with his boss’s secretary, I think, so that was a problem for him and his wife. Then the document isn’t there, or never was maybe, but they come back and Charley seems really, really shifty now. Curt takes matters into his own hands when a voice on the phone (maybe Jones?) tells him to kill everyone and get out (again, I think; this is where it got even more confusing). He doesn’t do this, instead he “handles” Charley, grabs Ronald and Wertz and heads out to find…something. It was the “We’re on our own” moment of the film.
That was enough.
It was at this point that I turned it off because 1) I didn’t know what was happening and 2) I had no idea who was who and what their relationships were to the other characters. Curt seemed to have the best handle of the situation, but everyone kept mentioning other names and I didn’t know who they were talking about. Ronald seemed to be close to the same page as Curt, but what did his affair have to do with the current situation? Who was Jones and was he the guy on the phone? What did Wertz’s affair mean to the current situation?
But most importantly, why was THIS story so boring?
As mentioned, I love a good crime/noir story and the setting of 1950s Detroit seemed perfect for this caper. The cast is stacked, having not even mentioned Jon Hamm as an investigator who smells something fishy when interviewing the Wertz family. But what agency was he from again? Something long and unrecognizable? Yeah, that was it.
Forty-five minutes in and we’ve had a good amount of plot, but it honestly could have happened in 15-20. Maybe then I could have stayed in it until the end, but it’s hard to finish a movie when you don’t care about the characters, the plot, or really anything happening on screen.
Is that a fish eye lens?
Yes, yes it is. (Far too) Many shots in the film are through this lens. It was cool the first time, but then it kept happening. Is it necessary? No. Does it add anything to the film? Well, it looks warped and slightly out of focus near the edges of the frame. Is that what they were going for? If so, nailed it. If not, it was a stylistic choice I did not enjoy and found very distracting.
So back to my original question: is if fair to review and rate a movie I didn’t finish watching? After reading this, I hope the reader would agree yes, because if the film is hard to follow and not engaging, why finish it? Life is too short to watch bad movies (unless you enjoy bad movies), but this isn’t a “bad” movie by the new definition of “so bad, it’s good”. It’s just meh. And I don’t have time for meh.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. The new season of his series SESSION ZERO drops Friday, July 16th with “One-on-One Shots”: individual interviews with interesting folks from the D&D community. Check them out at www.lincolnlhayes.com/sessionzero.