Sharper plays a long game of trust with cunning crooks who are never who they seem to be. The plot is divided into vignettes that present the characters at different stages of deception. We have an early idea of what is happening, but the true scope remains a secret until the second act. The subtle art of seduction makes predators turn like vultures around a gigantic price. The well-acted plot takes you from run-down streets to opulent Penthouse machinations. I was transfixed until the need to grow popped the Narrative Balloon. The film digs into the claws, but loses its grip with an exaggerated climax.

Tom (Justice Smith) is quietly reading behind the box office of a small New York bookstore. The beautiful Sandra (Briana Middleton), a NYU graduate student on feminism in literature, enters in search of a teacher’s gift. The shy Tom is easily enchanted by her sophisticated personality. He gathers the courage to invite her to dinner. Sandra politely refuses… just like your credit card a few moments after. She has no money to pay for the book. Tom gives it to her for free. She can come back after and pay.

Tom and Sandra in love

Sandra arrives with money when Tom closes the store. He is surprised and happy to see her. Sandra admits that she wanted to say yes earlier. Sparks fly when you log in to dinner. Tom and Sandra fall in love. He admits to being a failed writer struggling with get-down. Sandra grew up in a nursing home with a problematic older brother. She wonders why they always return home.

Meanwhile, Max (Sebastian Stan) visits his mother Madeline (Julianne Moore) at a lavish dinner. Her older boyfriend Richard Hobbes (John Lithgow) is a multi-billion dollar hedge fund owner. Madeline had warned Richard against Max’s depraved behavior. He causes a scene that makes an embarrassed Madeline cry. The powerful Richard has little interest in Max’s presence. He has a lucrative job offer to make the worried child disappear.

A fascinating beginning

The game unfolds quickly with a fascinating beginning. Tom and Sandra have a lot more to offer than it seems. The second chapter tells the story of Sandra and reshapes the narrative. You get the first idea of the deeper con and everyone’s place. But greed is a thirst that can never be quenched. Allies turn on each other when the stakes are simply too high to share. Why settle for peanuts when you can have the whole farm?

The famous British television director Benjamin Caron (Wallander, the Crown) shines in his film debut. Sharper drops with tension and gentle exposure. It builds a world where players have no qualms about being villains. One naive character asks another, how can you be so ruthless? They answer in one word…Practical. Caron shows how slippery snakes can become.

Cheating exposed

Sharper’s broken plot works seamlessly until the final act. The game is over. The exposed deception exposes the dirty accomplices and their motives. The film then takes a sharp turn to provide a surprising turn for the required bomb ending. Smart characters behave silly if everything in their essence had felt a cunning. It doesn’t succeed. Sharper ends with a deaf Note.

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