UNCUT GEMS: a high octane blitz of chaos, gambling, and unrelenting energy

By Dan O’Brien  / @vedafy1  /  Published July 25, 2020



From acclaimed filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie comes an electrifying crime thriller about Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

Directed By:

Josh SafdieBenny Safdi

Written By:

Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein

It is quite reasonable to be cautious of any film involving Adam Sandler. But here is a very welcome surprise: even though he is in 95% of the scenes, Uncut Gems is not the proverbial “Adam Sandler movie”.

Instead, it’s a masterclass of high-octane, high-energy film making. This is a creation of the Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny, New York film makers who have become global sensations of the independent movie circuit thanks to previous movies such as their 2014 release Heaven Knows What, and their 2017 breakthrough film Good Time.

Here’s the best way to describe this: if you have a heart condition, watching this will be a health risk. This is a non-stop, frenetic, hyper-stimulating, blood pumping maelstrom of madness with an engaging cast of highly entertaining characters and situations.

It is not easy watching the main character with a finger constantly on the self-destruct button, but this is one wildly exhilarating two hours of entertainment and a game-changing role for Adam Sandler.  

He is Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler with serious side issues, hustling everything possible to pay off bad debts. He gambles on anything with his family money as well as his business money, and will gamble with someone else’s money when the opportunity is there.  Howard is a person who cannot control himself, and doesn’t appear to care who he harms on the way.

In the hands of less skilled directors, this character would fail to draw sympathy from the audience, and we would have another average Adam Sandler movie.  Despite all of his flaws and selfish behavior, I did end up rooting for him to finally succeed.

Uncut Gems was unfairly ignored by the Academy Awards voters but received high praise throughout the film industry.  It received 76 nominations during the 2020 cinema awards season, with 24 wins.  Adam Sandler won Best Actor at the industry’s independent film ceremony, the Spirit Awards, where the film also won for Best Director as well as a Film Editing win.

The one critical issue to point out is that is a tremendously divisive film.  The electronic sounds that fill every scene, loud conversations that turn into screaming matches, the series of escalating events that seem to take place from start to finish, this is without a doubt not an easy movie to sit through.

Indie Wire’s 2019 review sums this up perfectly:

“It’s also a riveting high-wire act, pairing cosmic visuals with the gritty energy of a dark psychological thriller and sudden bursts of frantic comedy, and it’s the first movie to truly commune with Sandler’s performative strengths since “Punch-Drunk Love.” If “Uncut Gems” leaves people rattled, disoriented, grasping for clarity in the chaos of one man’s hectic routine, that all speaks to the sheer precision of a visionary achievement in full control.”

The internet is always an interesting place, and the differences of opinion you’ll find on this movie are often stunning; it’s as if people have seen two completely different movies. In this case, Uncut Gems is simply a movie you’ll need to see for yourself.

Now available on Netflix.

Other notable recommendations:

The Meyerwitz Stories  — Netflix

Punch Drunk Love — Amazon Video

Good Time — Netflix

Heaven Knows What — Vudu




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