Sharper Movie Review: New Apple TV+ Thriller Slowly Devolves to Chaos

Sharper is Directed by Benjamin Caron and Stars Justice Smith, Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan

Review: What starts as a slick, innovative thriller slowly turns for the worst as Sharper gets lost in every plot twist you can think of. While trying to stay one step ahead of the audience, it devolves into absurdist chaos that its stellar cast can’t keep up with.

Sharper Movie Review Apple TV Film Julianne Moore Sebastian Stan 2023 New

Sharper is the newest original to land on Apple TV+, which at this point has become a service I’ll generally check out any movie they release. Even if a few of them can be duds, there’s quite a bit to find that stands with the best that any streaming service releases. There’s a reason they won the big Oscar before the likes of Netflix; their best typically beats out any other original streaming service’s best. Sharper aims to kick off another strong Apple TV+ year lined up with a handful of intriguing releases.

The movie follows a handful of con artists all interested in the same sum of money. What starts rather simple slowly grows into a game of intelligence and nuance. The movie pulls back layers slowly and methodically until all knowledge is eventually laid out and confronted. Although Sharper isn’t necessarily a murder mystery along the likes of Clue or Knives Out, it shares many of the same tonal elements and stylistic choices.

Few movies attempt to amaze you like Sharper, and for that I have to give it some credit. The movie works incredibly hard to stay in front of you and pull the rug out minutes before you can piece it altogether. Again, that’s a relatively difficult piece to pull off. Unfortunately, though, Sharper does it much to often to actually land any punches. What starts as a fun and deepening game of lies and deceit quickly becomes confusing homework trying to remember character relationships and plot points from scenes ago.

For this reason, Sharper both earns its title and feels a bit tongue-in-cheek. You can feel emotionally and intellectually manipulated as the film builds on one twist after another. It’s hard to build connections and relationships with certain people when they’re backstories become more cluttered after every chapter. It’s beautifully shot and well performed, but it slowly loses steam when you start to feel yourself being worked over.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in Sharper is that you get to see each actor and actress in this loaded cast display a handful of different skillsets. It’s hard to say who the definitive lead is because each of the main characters get their own chapter of the story that helps develop their own motives and decisions. Each of these chapters also serve to add one more wrinkle to the convoluted tale director Benjamin Caron is trying to bring to life.

Sharper starts rather small and eventually branches out. The opening sequence is shared between bookstore owner Tom (Justice Smith) and seemingly innocent Sandra (Briana Middleton). Their relationship and interests seem rather inconspicuous and harmless at first, and both actors have some semblance of chemistry. I’ve never really been a fan of Justice Smith. He hasn’t been in many devoted, serious roles that command a sort of high amount of skill – not saying this is that, either, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Reviews for Movies like Sharper (2023)

Eventually Sharper blossoms into a much more dynamic and diverse story, chronicling con artists all determined to split the wealth of dying businessman Richard Hobbes (John Lithgow). The cast grows to include Sandra’s life vest Max (Sebastian Stan, who seems destined to play heartless douchebags for his entire career) and his mother Madeline (Julianne Moore). Again, each character gets an elongated sequence that helps dive deeper into their own actions and motivations.

That’s all fine and dandy, but the main concern with Sharper is that it gets too smart for its own good; it’s like the writers watched Pulp Fiction one too many times before ramping up to write this. The movie isn’t bad necessarily, it just becomes instantly forgettable and leaves your brain the moment the credits roll. I didn’t find myself buying in enough and wanting to piece it together at the end. It felt too frustratingly obvious because every plot twist eventually became so painfully obvious.

That’s not to say there isn’t any fun to be had with Sharper. It quickly moves from plot point to plot point in a way that I really admired. Julianne Moore eventually holds this thing together because she becomes so ensnarled in every mistake another character makes. The beginning of the third act is noticeably tense and effective, even if it becomes wallpaper for two more fake endings. I was shockingly light on notes when it rolled credits because nothing felt substantially important here. It just kinda goes.


Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Stream Sharper on Apple TV+

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Sharper Movie Cast and Credits

Sharper Movie Review Apple TV Film Julianne Moore Sebastian Stan 2023 New


Julianne Moore as Madeline Phillips

Sebastian Stan as Max

Justice Smith as Tom

Briana Middleton as Sandra

John Lithgow as Richard Hobbes

Darren Goldstein as Pat Braddock


Director: Benjamin Caron

Writer: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka

Cinematography: Charlotte Bruus

Editor: Yan Miles

Composer: Clint Mansell

Sharper movie on Letterboxd

Sharper movie on IMDb