Sharper (2023) Review
EVERYBODY loves a good twist; a good twist can turn a great movie into an unforgettable one. Films like Fight Club and The Sixth Sense have been entrenched into the minds of movie-goers because of their satisfying plot surprises, but not all films have been enhanced by their twists, with just as many being forever forgotten due to their lack of shock factor. So this begs the question: has A24 and Apple's latest collaboration hit that perfect balance between surprising and rewarding?
Sharper follows a diverse cast of characters, including quaint bookstore owner Tom (Justice Smith), recovering drug addict Sandra (Briana Middleton), aspiring con-artist Max (Sebastian Stan) and billionaire couple Madeline (Julianne Moore) and Richard (John Lithgow), as their lives become entangled with one another when billions of dollars are up for grabs in this psychological thriller that isn't afraid to leave audiences in the dark when needed.
Debut film director Benjamin Caron understands how to pull the strings when it comes to the small screen as displayed in his renowned series Andor and The Crown, and while both shows were beautifully paced and written, his talent for constructing well-paced episodic shows doesn't perfectly translate to a near 2-hour cinematic story. This isn't to say Sharper doesn't contain any memorable moments as despite the experience feeling more like a rushed TV series, there are certainly enough style points to make up for the movie's overabundance of substance.
The film's accomplished cast bring alot to a movie that could've been much more average than it ended up being. Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan bring depth to their respective characters, showcasing their range of emotions despite being given predictable dialogue and character arcs to work with.
However, out of sheer bias, one of my favourite actors Justice Smith ended up being the movie's premier performance. My unapologetic favouritism for the 27 year-old actor proved to be completely warranted as his stoic performance became more engrossing as the story evolved, turning his typecast character from a disinterested bookworm into a lovesick hermit seeking answers to questions he's yet to understand. If you haven't checked out anything Justice Smith has appeared in, I would highly recommend seeking out his roles in The Get Down, Detective Pikachu, and The Quarry; all these showcasing his underrated talent in a variety of genres such as drama, comedy and horror.
Much of this review has been spent talking about actors and their history which speaks volumes about the potential Sharper simply ended up wasting. Benjamin Caron's attempt to create an engaging, fluctuating thriller was hurt by the plot's inability to cover up key story beats. And at the end of the day, when you know everybody is a liar, then nothing ends up surprising you, causing the abundance of twists and turns to be as foreseeable as they're forgettable. But if you're just in the mood for a well-acted movie with well-paced scenes, then feel free to add Sharper to your watchlist...just don't worry about prioritising it anytime soon though.