January 24, 2024 – This movie, streaming on Apple TV+, is about con artists who are part of an ever-widening web of deception and betrayal that turns into a battle over a billionaire's business empire. Like most movies about con artists, the plot is complicated, but as the layers are peeled back, it all becomes clear at the end.
The story is told in chapters, with each chapter telling the story of one of the film's main characters, and how he or she fits into the various schemes. At first, these chapters seem to be unconnected, but it later becomes clear, these chapters, and characters are all connected. Because of the structure of this movie, there really isn't one central character, there are two.
Sandra (Briana Middleton of “The Tender Bar”) is a woman who gets deep in trouble with her corrupt parole officer one night at a local bar. She is bailed out unexpectedly by a stranger named Max (played by Sebastian Stan of the “Captain America” movies).
Later, she meets, and falls in love with a bookstore owner, Tom (Justice Smith of “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”). Tom and Sandra find themselves in the middle of a fight over Tom's father's (John Lithgow of “Bombshell”) business empire. At the center of this battle is Tom's stepmother, Madeline (Julianne Moore of “May December”).
Just how Max, Sandra, Tom and Madeline are all connected, and how they end up on opposite sides of a battle over billions of dollars is what is revealed in this complex story that includes love, as well as uneasy alliances and betrayals.
At one point in the film, Richard Hobbes, Tom's father, tells a con man caught in the act of trying to fleece him, “All that work for $1,000? Let me give you a piece of advice ... If you're gonna steal, steal a lot.” Richard is unaware that this little con is part of a bigger one. Richard mistakenly thinks he is telling the con man something he doesn't already know.
If this movie is just about betrayals, and just about fleecing people, it would be distasteful. Instead, there are decent people in the story who are trying to do the right thing, as well as people whose only interest is getting rich.
The movie ends with a very satisfying conclusion. The fact that it is so satisfying more than makes up for the fact that the story's resolution is not very believable. This is one of the most enjoyable movies of the year, so I was willing to overlook some minor flaws in the plot.
The acting is very good by Sebastian Stan, Julianne Moore and Briana Middleton, with strong support from the rest of the cast. The villains in this movie are more fun to watch that the heroes, even though they are immoral predators. They are are also people who are sharper than most, that is, they live by their wits. They repeat the old motto: “You can't cheat an honest man.” This film rates a B.
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