When Sebastian Stan’s character appears in Benjamin Caron’s Sharper, audiences can easily guess the direction of the film even if Julianne Moore and John Lithgow’s characters have not been introduced. Stan plays Max, who hires Sandra (Briana Middleton) for a job that involves stealing a considerable amount of money from Tom (Justice Smith), the son of billionaire Richard Hobbes (Lithgow), married to Madeline (Moore).
Sharper is presented in character vignettes, connecting every player to the more extensive operation. Sandra is tasked to fall in love with Tom until she convinces him to give her $350.000 to pay for her brother’s debts. But, of course, her brother didn’t exist, and the whole thing was a con.
But the con becomes more elaborate as audiences learn more about Max, Richard, and Madeline…and it becomes duller. As soon as Max hires Sandra after we see a brief sequence in which she falls in love with Tom, only for the movie to pull back and reveal that it was all a lie, the whole thing has already been revealed, and you’d be a fool to think that the movie will be any different than what’s in your head.
Sharper Is Devoid Of Any Thrills
There are no thrills in Sharper simply because the movie takes way too long to get going. The film is perpetually stuck in the first act for its first hour and forty minutes, consistently introducing new angles to the con, while barely developing its characters. But since we know where the whole thing is heading, it isn’t as enticing to observe multiple angles of the same story progressing to a culmination point that can be easily guessed when Stan comes into play.
I was severely disappointed by how easy and poorly written the movie was, especially with its unrealistic (and yet blatant) final act that tries to make you believe that it’s a 180 turn in the vein of a Knives Out movie, but is nowhere near as clever and intricate as Rian Johnson’s approach to mystery.
It’s a shame because Benjamin Caron is fresh out of directing three episodes of Disney+’s Andor. So naturally, you look forward to seeing what any of the three filmmakers who contributed to this impeccable series will do next. But Caron’s directing in Sharper lacks the dramatic tension and suspense that made Andor an incredible breath of fresh air out of the Star Wars universe.
While Clint Mansell’s synth-driven score and Charlotte Bruus Christiensen’s cinematography help the movie set an exciting atmosphere, it doesn’t help that Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka’s script is perfunctory.. The story simply itself isn’t as interesting as Caron, Gatewood, and Tanaka try to make you believe it is.
The Performances Nearly Save the Movie
It’s a good thing that the performances are all great. They’re the only thing that kept this mostly directionless movie feeling somewhat watchable. Middleton, in particular, is a revelation. There’s a lot of emotional complexity coming out of Sandra/Sandy, and how Caron slowly reveals each intricacy of her character is far more interesting than what the movie set out to do.
Moore and Lithgow also have great chemistry, with the latter delivering the film’s best line to Stan: “If you’re going to steal, steal a lot.” Smith is growing on me as an actor – I’ve found his dramatic roles far more compelling than his comedic turns in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom or Pokémon Detective Pikachu, but he needs better scripts.
That’s the fundamental problem with Sharper – its script is a mess. And it’s the sole reason the movie never reaches its full potential. Good acting can save a messy film, but it can only go so far where everything around it crumbles down. And that is the unfortunate case with Sharper.
Sharper is now available to stream on Apple TV+. What did you think of the movie? Who delivered the best performance? Let us know and be sure to follow us on social media!