HomeTechnologySharper assessment: the artwork of conning a con man

Sharper assessment: the artwork of conning a con man

Julianne Moore sits next to Justice Smith in Sharper.

“Sharper is a slick and trendy new crime thriller that, regardless of its finest efforts, would not fairly handle to ship the right con.”


  • The movie’s distinctive, fractured construction
  • Sebastian Stan and Julianne Moore’s cold-hearted, charismatic performances
  • Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography


  • The movie’s disappointing third act
  • A final-minute twist that almost breaks the movie’s con man logic

Sharper admirably makes an attempt to pay tribute to at least one traditional crime style whereas additionally reinventing it on the similar time. The movie’s tendency to current sure occasions and relationships a method, solely to later reveal the true nature of them, makes it an ideal religious successor to iconic con man films like The Brothers Bloom, The Sting, and even The Common Suspects. Its fractured, character-centric construction, nonetheless, feels decidedly trendy. As a matter of reality, each time the movie cuts to a brand new title card bearing a distinct character’s title, it’s straightforward to think about a actuality through which Sharper’s story has been stretched out to accommodate a Netflix or Apple TV+ restricted sequence.

The movie’s multi-perspective construction is an apparent gimmick, nevertheless it additionally permits Sharper to inform its story in a approach that usually isn’t predictable. Much more importantly, it offers the movie an opportunity to current sure particulars and occasions in a nonlinear trend that doesn’t require it to continuously overexplain their significance to the viewers. The movie’s belief within the intelligence of its viewers is, the truth is, considered one of Sharper’s best strengths. The moments when the film suffers essentially the most are, conversely, when it doesn’t lengthen that very same courtesy to its characters.

Briana Middleton and Justice Smith walk through a park together in Sharper.
Apple TV+

Sharper begins innocently sufficient. One evening, whereas Tom (Justice Smith), the naïve son of a wealthy businessman (John Lithgow), is making ready to shut the New York Metropolis bookstore that his father purchased for him, he’s approached by Sandra (Briana Middleton). What begins out as a easy request for a e-book turns right into a date after which a full-blown romance between the 2 characters. Tom falls exhausting for Sandra, a lot in order that he’s instantly prepared to mortgage her $350,000 to bail her unseen brother out of a nasty scenario the second she mentions it. After he does, Sandra promptly vanishes.

Her disappearance clears the best way for Sharper’s multilayered story to really start. By a sequence of subsequent chapters, Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka’s script reveals that Sandra was not, the truth is, a kindhearted and well-read scholar who simply so occurred to stroll into Tom’s bookstore sooner or later. She was, as an alternative, despatched there by Max (Sebastian Stan), a coldhearted con man who saved Sandra from a nasty expertise one evening and subsequently took her below his wing. In a later chapter, Sharper reveals how a separate con put Tom on Max’s radar within the first place.

To say rather more about Sharper’s plot could be to spoil a lot of the enjoyable of the movie. For a lot of the film’s runtime, Gatewood and Tanaka keep such a gradual, managed movement of knowledge that it turns into straightforward to remain invested in Sharper‘s varied twists, turns, and acid-tongued conversations. Not one of the movie’s chapters go on for too lengthy, both, and though Sharper’s repeated narrative reversals serve an apparent operate, they do succeed at imbuing it with a satisfying fringe of unpredictability.

Julianne Moore touches John Lithgow's face in Sharper.
Apple TV+

Behind the digital camera, director Benjamin Caron fills Sharper with sufficient intimate close-ups and easy dolly photographs to provide the movie a modern, thought-about polish that solely makes the attractive, duplicitous nature of its story that rather more palpable. Caron’s emphasis on Sharper‘s varied shades of blues, reds, and blacks additionally combines properly with the shadowy cinematography that Charlotte Bruus Christensen brings to it. The movie’s neo-noir visible model elevates, particularly, the dimly lit lodge room seductions and rooftop conversations that make up its early, Max and Sandra-centric part.

As Max, Stan turns in an admirably chilly, slimy efficiency, which solely additional proves how at dwelling the actor will be in roles that permit him to lean into full-blown villainy. Julianne Moore offers a equally charismatic, delightfully narcissistic efficiency as Madeline, a mysterious lady who hyperlinks herself to Lithgow’s Richard Hobbes. Whereas Middleton, Stan, and Moore all take advantage of out of their characters’ humanity (or lack thereof), although, Smith isn’t capable of carry the identical degree of charisma or depth to his efficiency as Tom.

The comparative flatness of Tom’s character finally comes again to chunk Sharper in the long run. For many of its runtime, the movie is a slick and effectively well-told con man thriller, one which delights in protecting its viewers on its toes simply as a lot because it does in embracing its fictional con artists’ cold-hearted ways. When Sharper makes an attempt to show its inherent unpredictability round on its central thieves, nonetheless, the movie loses not solely a lot of its devilish appeal, but additionally the underlying wit that makes its first two acts so participating.

Sebastian Stan stands at the edge of a doorway in Sharper.
Apple TV+

In its ultimate third, Gatewood and Tanaka’s script makes an attempt to tug off a sequence of reversals that push the movie’s logic to its breaking level. Characters make choices that make little or no sense each inside the context of Sharper‘s higher story and inside its established underground world of criminals and con artists. The movie’s ultimate flashbacks rely, subsequently, on viewers shopping for into the concept Sharper‘s characters weren’t ever as clever as we’d been led to consider, which could have been simpler to just accept had its first hour not accomplished such job of displaying us in any other case.

Sharper, in different phrases, makes the identical mistake as so most of the con man films which have come earlier than it. By trying to tug off a sequence of more and more stunning twists, the movie finally ends up overextending itself and reaching past its grasp. Its script by no means totally justifies the movie’s curiosity in sure one-note characters, which solely makes their function in its eventual conclusion all of the extra disappointing. Fortuitously, whereas these flaws do boring Sharper’s influence, they don’t totally erase its general enchantment.

The movie feels, in some ways, like a homage to the sort of modest style thrillers that have been commonplace within the Nineteen Nineties. The truth that it’s capable of work in addition to it does for a lot of its runtime makes Sharper straightforward to suggest, too — even when it isn’t fairly reducing sufficient to make a lot of an enduring impression.

Sharper is now taking part in in choose theaters and out there to stream on Apple TV+.

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