Sharper movie review & film summary (2023)

Justice Smith plays Tom, a soft-spoken young man who works at an old bookstore, selling first editions of famous novels. One night, a beautiful young woman named Sandra (relative newcomer Briana Middleton, more than holding her own opposite some legends) enters Tom’s shop, and the two have instant chemistry. They flirt and eventually go to dinner, jumping into a quick relationship. After only a couple of weeks, Sandra is meeting Tom’s friends, and the L-word is even thrown around. Then she reveals she has a brother who is in trouble. He needs some cash, an insane amount of cash. After the danger for Sandra’s brother intensifies, Tom agrees to get the funds from his extremely wealthy father, Richard (John Lithgow). Of course, Sandra disappears with the money.

Don’t worry. That’s not a major spoiler, only the first of several con games and revelations revealed through Gatewood and Tanaka’s vignette structure, one that focuses on one character at a time, revealing the role they play in a script that sometimes stretches credulity as it flashes back and sometimes even sideways. The second vignette jumps back to reveal how Sandy became Sandra under the tutelage of a slimy con artist named Max (Sebastian Stan), who just happens to have a connection to Madeline (Julianne Moore), the new wife of, you guessed it, Richard.

“Sharper” opens with a definition of its title: “One who lives by their wits.” That should give you an idea of how smart this script thinks it is. Once featured on the Black List, it’s one of those chronological jumbles that streamers adore because it drops a revelation every couple of minutes like a metronome. But there’s a simple joy in watching the thriller machine at work. We don’t get movies like this very often anymore, and I enjoyed watching the succession of betrayals and double-crosses, even if I could tell where it was going to end long before it did.

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