It was 1954 in Detroit. Curt (Don Cheadle), Russo (Benicio del Toro) and Charley (Kieran Culkin) were recruited by a guy named Jones (Brendan Fraser) for a seemingly simple job. Charley was to accompany an accounting clerk Matt Wertz (David Harbour) to his office to retrieve a classified document from the safe of his boss. While waiting, Curt and Russo held Matt's wife Mary (Amy Seimetz) and kids hostage in their house.
However, things did not go exactly as planned which forced Curt and Russo to use their own wits and connections to discover the deeper story about that document that they were supposed to steal, as well as the masterminds behind the whole plot. As they uncovered more details and went up the corporate ladder of executives, their wives, mistresses and other gangsters, their initial contract price went from a mere $5,000 up a hundredfold.
The throwback retro style was evident from the first scene as the camera followed Curt walking along the streets of Detroit, and the opening credits were being flashed in big block red letters. The electronic jazzy musical score of David Holmes gave a tense gangster atmosphere from the get-go, setting the tone for the whole film. The costumes were in tune with the 1950s setting, dapper suits for the men and colorful swing dresses for the women.
The stellar ensemble cast was led by Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro, both known for being reliable actors of broad range and versatility. They deliver the goods here with their expected efficiency in portraying their respective characters, Curt and Russo. Both were at first satisfied to make a quick buck for 3-hour "babysitting" job, but later, they wised up to realize that there was so much more money to be gained by jumping up the ranks of contacts via a series of double-crossing transactions.
It was good to see Brendan Fraser back on the screen, even with the added pounds. Jon Hamm had always fit the mold of a police officer, in this case, he was Detective Joe Finney. Ray Liotta was born to play gangsters, and here he played was another one, Frank Capelli. Julia Fox, fresh from her breakthrough debut in "Uncut Gems" (2019), played Capelli's devious wife Vanessa. There is one more major star, unbilled on the poster, that made a surprise guest appearance as a corporate head honcho.
Ed Solomon is best known for writing the "Bill and Ted" films and "Now You See Me" films. His dark sense of humor was very well-integrated in this clever caper as well.
Director Steven Soderbergh unfolded his complicated story methodically here, gripping the audience from the start, and engaging them all the way through to the very end. To solidify his vision, Soderbergh also worked as cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). His storytelling style was so deliberately intriguing, only revealing the whole story with the card that came up after the final scene to explain the history behind it all.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."