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The Ending Of No Sudden Move Explained

"No Sudden Move" proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that director Steven Soderbergh is a master of the thriller. He knows how to take a simple conversation and fill it with so much malice you're drawn to the screen waiting to see who betrays who next. 

For his latest entry in the genre, Soderbergh sets his sights on 1955 Detroit. A group of criminals gets what's supposed to be a simple job, but they keep running into one setback after the next. Once the deaths begin to pile up, the remaining members set out on a mission to figure out who hired them in the first place and what exactly they want with the MacGuffin document. 

Much like his "Ocean's Eleven" series, Soderbergh has assembled a formidable ensemble cast, including Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Jon Hamm, David Harbour, Julia Fox, Brendan Fraser, and Kieran Culkin. With so many characters and a twisty plot, it's understandable if some viewers got a little lost by the time the finale came around. Here's everything to know about the "No Sudden Move" ending.

The truth behind the papers

The plot of "No Sudden Move" kicks into gear when Doug Jones (Fraser) hires three small-timers — Curt (Cheadle), Ronald (del Toro), and Charley (Culkin) — to convince a GM employee, Matt (Harbour), to steal documents from his company. While one accompanies Matt to his work, the other two stay behind to ensure his family doesn't try to make a break for it. The entire scheme is due to this paperwork, and for much of the movie, we have no idea what's even on the documents. 

Seeing how the film's set in Detroit, it only seems appropriate for the MacGuffin to deal with the automotive industry. The audience learns the paperwork has to deal with developing the catalytic converter, which would allow cars to emit less pollution into the atmosphere. Corporate interests turn out to be behind the heist as the major American automotive dealers — GM, Chrysler, Ford, and American Motors — want to avoid the blueprints getting into the wrong hands. 

The heist may be fictional, but the companies' reluctance to adopt the converters was all too real. Despite heavy pollution, catalytic converters didn't enter the marketplace until 1975 (via Union of Concerned Scientists). "No Sudden Move" envisions a reality where companies were willing to get their hands dirty alongside Detroit's various gangs to ensure the specs didn't become public knowledge.

Two different fates for the gangsters

The film's plot follows the three criminals hired by Doug. Charley meets a violent end fairly early in the movie, but Curt and Ronald become wanted men once things turn sideways. Rival gangs across Detroit set out to find them, and while they go their separate ways later on in the film, they each meet a very different end. 

Curt makes it to the film's end all right. He cuts a deal halfway through the movie where he works with Aldrick Watkins's (Bill Duke) gang, who ends up rescuing him right when Detective Joe Finney (Hamm) is on his tail. In the film's final moments, the gang provides Curt with $5,000 and the opportunity to leave for Kansas City so that he can live a quieter life. 

Ronald isn't as lucky. His affair with another gangster's wife, Vanessa (Fox), leads to the two going on the run after making out with over $400,000 after selling the hidden documents to the highest bidder. Ronald and Vanessa drive away, and when he thinks they're in the clear, Vanessa shoots him. She leaves him in an isolated meadow, a fitting end for a man who tempted fate one too many times.

Yes, that's Matt Damon as Mr. Big

There's an entire subset of movies that include a surprise Matt Damon cameo. From "Thor: Ragnarok" to "Deadpool 2," Damon has a habit of randomly appearing in films for no other reason than the fact it would probably be a lot of fun. That's not even counting the times he's emerged as a substantial character who only pops up in the finale like in "Interstellar" and "Saving Private Ryan." You can officially add "No Sudden Move" to that genre.

Matt Damon makes a third-act appearance as Mr. Big, who works on behalf of the Big 4 automotive manufacturers. He's ultimately the one who purchases the blueprints to prevent the catalytic converter information from getting out. He pays handsomely for it, but it's not long until one of his goons stops Vanessa and recovers the money. 

It may be a small role, but Damon makes the most of it, proving himself to be the most terrifying individual in a film that has no shortage of bad guys. He shows no remorse for the trail of bodies he leaves in his wake. He only cares about doing what's profitable for his clients, and if that means ruining countless lives in the process, so be it. 

There's always a bigger fish

As if a deadly heist wasn't engaging enough, "No Sudden Move" has a lot more on its mind than whether the criminals will end up finishing the job. There are plenty of themes to percolate on, including ones related to corporate greed. The entire plot is set into motion because fat cats want to avoid spending money on catalytic converters, which would cut into profit margins. Numerous people die so that these companies can save a little bit of money, and by the end of the film, we're left to ask, "Was it all worth it?"

Racism also plays a role, as the film is set in 1950s Detroit. The film references how the government took away land owned by Black people under the guise of eminent domain, displacing hundreds of people trying to attain the American dream. Racism can also be found in the way Curt is paid less than his contemporaries despite the fact they're doing the same job. When the mob bosses place bounties on their heads, Curt's is worth less than Ronald's. 

Both ideas come to a head with the idea that we're all helpless against the machinations of higher powers. Initially, the three babysitters report to Doug, but Doug reports to the mob bosses. And even the mob bosses are helpless against those with power at the highest echelons of the American ladder. What's the lesson to learn from all of this? Perhaps we need to learn to take a cue from Curt — get out of harm's way and build a new life elsewhere.