The latest Apple TV+ film, “Sharper’,” has several elements that could’ve made it a modern classic thriller. Yet somehow in spite of a killer cast including Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, John Lithgow, and newer to the scene actress Briana Middleton, the film fails to find an edge. Directed by Benjamin Caron (“Andor,” “Sherlock,” “The Crown,”) and written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka it’s not as if the film lacks pedigree both on screen and behind the camera.
“Sharper” centers around a complicated web of con artists and affluent marks. Perhaps the greatest flaw is that it doesn’t trust its audience. Instead of creating a real sense of peril and consequences, it features characters who purport to be one step ahead of each other constantly. Yet it also telegraphs the plan so aggressively to the audience there’s no sense of surprise or payoff when reveals do happen.
In spite of her being the least seasoned, Middleton actually brings the most riveting performance. Her loyalties are the most believably questionable (which is what you want in a this type of morally ambiguous tale). She’ll next be seen in Apple TV+’s “Metropolis” mini-series adaptation.
In spite of being set in New York City the film also feels small. There’s no sense of liveliness or the film existing in a real world. Coasting along in the manicured sets and bubble of affluence, the lack of grounding in the film permeates from the top level down.
It’s truly a shame that “Sharper” favors twists over increased stakes. The pacing of it also remains constant throughout, which resulted in not one pulse raise the entire time. Never cutting through the surface level “deceptions” renders it a passable background watch at best.
“Sharper” is streaming now on Apple TV+.