"If you're going to steal, steal a lot."
That's the under-riding premise of "Sharper," a slow-burning thriller about con artists conning other con artists, where nothing - and no one - is ever quite is it seems.
Despite the movie leaving me with a feeling that it should have been more effective given the talented cast, "Sharper" still was an enjoyable if not infallible mystery.
The movie starts small and the cons grow larger and carry more stakes. We meet Sandra (Briana Middleton) when she enters a Manhattan bookstore. The young owner of the store, Tom (Justice Smith) feels a connection and after a bit of flirting, they end up going out on a date. Tom falls hard, not just in love but in other ways as well. Before he knows it, he's offering to help bail Sandra's troubled brother out of a bad situation, where Tom ends up loaning Sandra $350,000 of his savings, money gifted to him by his rich father.
As the movie progresses, we also see Sandra caught up with a cold-hearted con man by the name of Max (Sebastian Stan). Max, we later learn, is mixed up with Madeline (Julianne Moore), who is engaged to be married to an aging tycoon billionaire (Jon Lithgow). Everything is connected, and in the end, everything comes to a head.
First time feature-film director Benjamin Caron, an Emmy-winning producer who also has TV directing experience on hit shows like "Andor" and "The Crown," doesn't quite stick the landing, nor does he infuse his film with any sort of blatant style...the sort of slick panache you might typically find in this genre. He smartly lets his actors do most of the heavy-lifting, with Briana Middleton standing out even among the other heavyweights.
The story flips and folds, and not everything makes sense when you look back on it (a specific scene between Max and Madeline, where Max offers up a urine sample to her, particularly doesn't make any sense upon a rethinking). Elsewhere, certain plot "twists" can be seen coming a mile away.
But "Sharper" is fun, and there's enough intrigue and interesting characters to make the venture worthwhile. There's a sense that "Sharper" could have been a bit more pointed and precise, but it manages never to feel dull.
Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.
Starring: Justice Smith, Briana Middleton, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Moore, Jon Lithgow.
Directed by Benjamin Caron (feature-film directorial debut).
"Sharper" is available to stream on Apple TV+ on Friday, February 17th, 2023.
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