Movie Review: Sharper

You might not follow every twist in this tale of con artists working one another, but it's stylish enough to overcome a clunky plot.


Immaculate style can go a long way.

In the case of “Sharper,” an agreeable new drama streaming on Apple TV Plus, it covers up an inherent story flaw. This is a movie about con artists, you see, and like many, it devolves into elite shysters attempting to hoodwink one another. (Why con artists in movies are always trying to trick the people most likely to know they’re being conned, I don’t know.)

That structure — an escalating series of twists and double-crosses — inevitably leads to a certain middle-act confusion. Wait, who’s side is she on? Is he really working with her, or is that part of the scheme? Who do we trust at this point? Eh, you know what, let’s just kind of glaze over and wait to see who leaves with the money.

“Sharper” certainly isn’t the worst example of this plot problem, but it’s not immune to it. Our cast of characters — career confidence man Max (Sebastian Stan), seemingly mild-mannered bookstore owner Tom (Justice Smith), wary billionaire Richard (John Lithgow), mysterious new arrival Sandra (Briana Middleton) and social climber Madeline (Julianne Moore) — switches allegiances a half-dozen times, leading the audience to question why any individual scene or statement should be trusted.

Fortunately, there’s a cool, elegant style to “Sharper” that makes passive viewing a pleasure. Director Benjamin Caron — a television veteran who has helmed episodes of “Sherlock” and “Andor” — leans into the mystery with sweeping shots of nighttime cityscapes; a synth-heavy score by Clint Mansell adds ample mood. And everyone always looks great.

It’s ultimately a high-intensity trifle, but there’s nothing wrong with that. You may not remember who zoomed who 10 minutes after the film ends, but you’ll be perfectly content while watching.

My Rating: 6/10

“Sharper” is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.

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