Rob Reviews "Sharper"
Sharper is the kind of film that should be more than it is.
Using the same type of storytelling used in films like The Last Duel, this is the story of multiple cons that map themselves out in the heart of New York City. Starting with Tom (Justice Smith), an independent bookstore owner who gets involved with local college student Sandra (Briana Middleton), this tale unfolds through the lives of multiple characters and situations played out by John Lithgow, Sebastian Stan, and Julianne Moore in a way that really wanted me to be fully engaged and sitting on the edge of my seat with each and every twist and turn. Unfortunately, it truly did not.
Trying to harken itself back to a higher-class and less clever version of the 1990 Stephen Frears film The Grifters, this film doesn’t really even pick up until the last thirty minutes from a pace that constantly had me looking at the clock to see how long there was still going to be before the end credits. Let’s be clear here: this is more of an indictment of its script more than it does of those involved in executing the story. Under the direction of Benjamin Caron, this film is very well shot and presented proving why he has worked with the Branagh Theatre multiple times as well as on television shows like The Crown and Andor. The cast does their best to give a certain level of humanity to characters that outside of Tom really have no redeeming qualities to speak of with a cold chemistry that is necessary for what each of them tasks themselves to do, but in the end it all just seems formulaic and standard. Even the finale itself doesn’t carry the emotional punch that I feel that it should have and was honestly hoping that it would, although honestly there was a bit in there that made me nod my head in approval.
Returning to my original statement (and I also still believe this about The Last Duel), I feel that Sharper could have been better served as a limited-series, which seems to be all the rage right now. Use each episode to show at least a piece of each character’s arc as it leads up to the climax in a way that could build any form of emotional investment and even prolong the story itself. Knowing how popular the limited series are becoming, that could be the exact reason that Sharper did not go that route. Still, that would have made this a more enjoyable experience for me. It’s hard to say what the rest of 2023 will bring to my film rankings, but this will at best find itself in the middle of the pack.