A total (yet entertaining) ingenuity from start to finish, the noir thriller sharper is a monument to pretend without being pretentious, a puzzle without a pattern, an equation without an equals sign. This makes logic impossible and the search for solutions is a waste of time. In the Random House Dictionary, the word “sharper” is a rarely used noun defined as a “clever con artist.” That details just about every character in the movie as they conspire to cheat, betray, and ruin each other with tight, sexy performances by a uniformly stellar cast, including Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, and John Lithgow, who cut the air like newly crafted steak knives under the streamlined direction of Benjamin Caron. Surprises enhance every scene and nothing is what it seems, including the rousing denouement. One of the most stylish intellectual thrillers of all time.
SHARPER ★★★1/2 (3.5/4 stars)
Initially told in reverse chronological order, the story picks up where the film ends and the ending signals a new beginning. It shifts gears so often that you’re left guessing, and just when you think you’ve got it, the feverish style makes you wonder if what you saw really happened. Slowly unraveling into subheadings labeled after the names of the people who continue the text or whose stories are just beginning, it’s a movie that captivates like the kind of rich novel you take to bed and never want to finish.
“Tom,” the first chapter, lures you in without a break when a beautiful girl named Sandy (Briana Middleton) walks into an artsy bookshop and enchants the owner (Justice Jesse Smith) with her charm and intelligence to the point that he invites her to join them. doing. dinner. She is pursuing a PhD at NYU on defining radicalism in American literature. Fascinated, he hands her an original first edition of Jane Eyre, and falls. When their affair gets serious, he gives her $350,000 to save her brother’s life from drug dealers. She disappears, leaving him heartbroken and bent on revenge.
In the next chapter, “Sandy,” she is revealed to have been a recovering addict in prison, not a college student, and when a pretty boy in a bar saves her from a corrupt female probation officer by selling the cop his Rolex. look, a $5,000 bargain, Sandy starts another fling. The watch is fake so he gives Sandy a thousand for her “cut” and they become partners (and lovers). The man at the bar is an extremely skilled con artist named Max, played by the extraordinarily handsome Sebastian Stan. Max becomes Sandy’s mentor and teaches her the art of saving rich men from their bank accounts. His beautiful, glamorous mother, Madeline (Julianne Moore, in one of her most uninhibited protagonists), is so horrified by her son’s heartless criminal behavior that she throws him out, but in “Madeline,” the next chapter, we learn that they run their own con in a prominent billionaire (John Lithgow) with a son who turns out to be Tom, the bookstore owner from the first scene, and Max is not Madeline’s son at all, but (beware of it) ) her lover.
As you begin to move the pieces around the board, a light slowly turns on and you realize that the movie doesn’t always unfold in reverse. Sometimes it just lays the groundwork for future crowds. Madeline marries her billionaire and when he dies of a weak heart valve she inherits $9.2 billion but it is controlled by Tom so to outwit him she reconciles with flim-flam king Max who is now Sandy, Tom lights up. And Madeline. It’s so complicated that this is a movie you might have to see twice to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Even now, in hindsight, I still ask myself questions about relationships, continuity, and character motivations. The only nagging frown in my brow is that the ending, where everything and everyone’s fate is revealed within the last five minutes, does somewhat damage the film’s overall credibility, but not the film’s lavish sense of style. The inventions that move forward sharper are tedious at times but easily forgiven, as the screenplay, by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, shocks and amuses at the same time, the actors are tense and mesmerizing, and the fresh ideas are unceasing, like a game of chess with human pieces making their own rules, a exciting minute.
Observer Reviews are regular reviews of new and notable movies.