Wednesday, February 8, 2023

More big-screen con games


Contrived and not always credible, Sharper tells a story that drops con atop con. Although the movie's  structure -- focusing on five characters and introducing each one with a title card -- feels familiar, Sharper picks up steam when Julianne Moore shows up as a schemer with an eye for rich men. You'll have to wait for Moore's arrival because Justice Smith and Briana Middleton kick things off as young people who meet at the New York City bookstore run by Smith's Tom. Tom falls hard. But in true noir fashions, Middleton's Sandra isn't all that she seems. Secrecy and deception open a door for director Benjamin Caron, working from a screenplay by Brian Gatewood and Alessandra Tanaka, to twist the story into knots that aren't particularly difficult to untangle but still offer some fun. A solid cast earns its pay, including John Lithgow in a smaller role as a wealthy hedge fund manager who's dating Moore's Madeline. Middleton has a nice turn, initially telling Tom she's a graduate student working on her doctorate. Sebastian Stan takes on the role of Max, a master manipulator with a mean streak, and Moore adds smarts and sexual spice. At the heart of all the maneuvering: money -- billions in fact. You'll probably see the conclusion coming and the movie doesn't pack a gleeful Sting-like wallop. OK, so Sharper is no groundbreaker -- but it's always difficult, at least for me, to resist a movie about con artists that plays the game well enough to sustain interest, even if it's not a genre classic.

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