Lawrence Leung is many things – writer, comedian, actor, magician – but most of all he’s a great storyteller. If you’ve watched any of his shows – at a comedy festival or on television – you’d be familiar with his knack for transforming a thin premise into a transfixing tale.
Sucker is one such tale: a recounting of Leung’s learning scams and schemes from an experienced conman (Timothy Spall) and his daughter (Lily Sullivan). The story hits all the time-honoured tropes of the caper movie. Think The Sting: zippy introduction, mounting stakes, twist conclusion; plus a hefty dose of self-awareness to cut through the cliché.
Even without such self-reflexivity, the first act has enough vim to forgive the familiarity: an early scene where Spall convinces a chess club that he’s a grandmaster is imaginatively directed (with a clever twist to boot!). But the subsequent shift into serious stakes lacks something. Without Leung’s charisma, the momentum stalls.
Part of the problem is Leung’s proxy, John Luc, who delivers every line with a stilted, teenage nervousness; fine initially, but less so as he’s supposed to mature into a confident confidence man. If Leung was still young enough to play himself, this might’ve been something special…