“Full Circle” opens as what seems like a relatively straightforward kidnapping drama, almost as if it will be Soderbergh’s take on something like Ron Howard’s “Ransom.” The son of a wealthy family is kidnapped. Except, well, not really. Things go very wrong from the beginning of this complex scheme, orchestrated by Guyanese power player Mahabir (CCH Pounder), who speaks of closing a circle to remove a curse. You see, the powerful New York family has ties to an incident in Guyana many years ago, and so the kidnapping is more than just a typical money grab—it’s an act of vengeance. Much of the most interesting material in Solomon’s script works from the idea that people often act out of more than one self-interest.
At first, Derek (Timothy Olyphant) and Sam (Claire Danes) presume that the abduction of their son Jared (Ethan Stoddard) is purely for financial gain. After all, Jared’s grandfather is a celebrity named Chef Jeff (Dennis Quaid). The abductors, which include Mahabir’s nephew Aked (Jharrel Jerome), his ex-girlfriend Natalia (Adia), and teens named Xavier (Sheyi Cole) and Louis (Gerald Jones), demand an odd sum: $314,159, which Jeff notes is the start of the numerical value of pi. It’s an easy amount of money for this incredibly well-off family to get, and Derek is soon racing around town with a bag of cash. However, something’s gone wrong from the very beginning that I won’t spoil. I’ll only say that decisions must be made quickly, and not everyone here seems capable of making the right ones.
Dragged into this drama is an officer of the United States Postal Inspection Service named Harmony (Zazie Beetz), who is investigating a series of insurance scams perpetrated by Mahabir and her crew. When she’s not butting heads with a slimy superior Manny, played perfectly by Jim Gaffigan, or breaking up with her girlfriend, the spectacularly named Melody Harmony is playing Columbo, drawing the lines that connect Mahabir, Aked, Sam & Derek, and even her boss. It’s a tale of remarkable connections between characters that sometimes stretches credulity, but the robustness of Soderbergh’s filmmaking holds it together. Whether it’s sweaty close-ups or liberal use of a very Bernard Herrman-esque score by Zack Ryan, “Full Circle” is a great example of how much craftsmanship one of the best American filmmakers brings to everything he does.