Review by Sean Boelman
A star-studded adult-skewing film coming out in February isn’t typically a great sign, as it probably was finished in time for awards season but chose to sit it out — likely as an indicator of quality. While the thriller Sharper might not be as intelligent as it clearly hopes to be, it’s still just as diverting as one would hope.
The movie follows a web of interconnected lies that begins to form around a wealthy family in New York City. It’s an old-school acting showcase that allows its A-list ensemble to chew the scenery with every exaggerated twist and turn the story takes. In other words, it’s one of the most fun adult-aimed films in quite a while.
Ultimately, the big twist of the movie is pretty predictable, but the ride along the way to get there is so wild that it’s entertaining nonetheless. The fragmented structure is somewhat gimmicky but allows the story to unfold in a way that lets the viewer peel back layer upon layer of the story in a fascinating way.
If Sharper does have one massive misfire, it’s the message. It’s clear that in some ways, this is trying to be an “Eat the Rich” narrative, but making the protagonist a trust fund kid — no matter how disillusioned he is with his family’s wealth — weakens any sort of satirical punch the film could have had.
There’s also the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable, but this issue is much more forgivable given that it seems purposeful. The joy of the movie is not in rooting for any particular character to win, but to root for them to absolutely destroy one another. It’s an extremely cynical film made for cynical people, but the same crowd that loves Succession will likely eat this up.
Of course, the ensemble is a massive highlight. It’s rare that you see a true ensemble picture like this with four leads who each hold their own, but Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, and especially Brianna Middleton are all ravishing. The only person in the cast who doesn’t feel fully utilized is John Lithgow.
Benjamin Caron’s filmmaking also stands out. The editing is stylish and kinetic, and the production design creates a sleek New York urban socialite setting for the narrative. The soundtrack is also one of the best of the years, including a Talking Heads needle drop and plenty of others that just create an overall air of fun.
Plenty of people are going to call Sharper ridiculous and predictable, and both of those things are true. But there is one thing no one can rightfully call it: boring. Benjamin Caron has created a stylish thriller with a brilliant ensemble, and the result is just an all-around good time.
Sharper hits theaters on February 10 and streams on Apple TV+ February 17.