LONDON: “Sharper” begins by defining its title as a person who lives by their wits. Google it, however, and the top result you get is a cheating gambler — which acts as more of an introduction to this Apple+ thriller than the rather self-aggrandizing self-definition the movie opts for.
Directed by Benjamin Caron and boasting a stellar cast, “Sharper” tells the interconnected stories of different characters — from parolee Sandra and mild-mannered bookstore owner Tom, to swindling confidence man Max and his partner-in-crime Madeline. It’s hard to give too much more detail without revealing some of the best storylines, but suffice to say that, once “Sharper” begins to ramp up, it doesn’t slow down, and the movie’s near-two-hour runtime zips past in an enjoyable flash.
That is mainly down to the film’s talented director and razor-sharp writing by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka. Caron’s resume includes “The Crown” and “Sherlock” as well as episodes of the brilliant recent Star Wars show “Andor,” and he’s pulled in a cast able to pull off some complex characters. Briana Middleton and Justice Smith are great as Sandra and Tom, but Sebastian Stan and Julianne Moore are next-level good as Max and Madeline. John Lithgow adds even more gravitas with his brief turn as Richard. His seasoned, cynical billionaire exudes hard-earned wisdom and his eyes twinkle as he spars with Stan’s brash young trickster.
The movie unfolds almost in reverse, as each character’s vignette sheds a little more light on the overall story — save for a final twist that brings everything together.
Sure, it’s not quite the big reveal that Caron, Gatewood and Tanaka presumably hoped that it would be, but it’s still a decent reversal, and a neat way to tidy up the film’s loose ends.
“Sharper” is a slick, good-looking movie with a lot going for it. And with a feature-length debut this good, Caron is definitely one worth keeping an eye out for.