This is one of those films where I believe Benny and Josh Safdie have made their mark as it is the best film they have ever directed. Uncut Gems is a film which combines the genres of crime, drama and mystery into a thriller that gets out of control for the star of the movie, Adam Sandler. For Sandler, this is definitely his best film ever. Of course, he is known to be someone funny and at times has performed in some dark comedies as well as dramas. However, this one takes his career to a whole new level due to his acting, characterization, and overall performance. The film is vivid with lies and tension that hold the audience on the edge of their seats in curiosity continuously asking themselves how ugly can these conflicts get?
Adam Sandler is Howard Ratner. Ratner is a cynical, lethal, and opinionated. He is in a multitude of binds with a world of financial problems which involve making and also losing tons of money from numerous deals he placed and has in place. However, he goes above and beyond to get as rich and maintain his lifestyle. Ratner’s makes many risky decisions and this results in many dangerous scenarios. Ratner is a New York jeweler who comes across a gem that is from Ethiopia which he tries to sell to NBA player, Kevin Garnett. Garnett is obsessed with this item, as he believes that it will bring him luck to win. Ratner places a high-stakes bet for Garnett’s Celtics to win and for Ratner to score big. Prior to the game though, Ratner still has a whole range of money problems that continue to follow him, along with family tensions, and he begins to struggle to keep his attitude intact. This leads to Ratner’s family being at risk, mob members following him, and people who he has bad deals with wanting to destroy Ratner. Ratner takes all the risk in hopes the gem is going to make Garnett win so he can pay off his debts and return to his lavish lifestyle.
For Sandler, who is Jewish, he plays his role in Uncut Gems amazingly well. He has the nerdy glasses, the punk haircut, the gang-type clothing, and a thick New York accent that he uses throughout the film to express his anger and frustration when his conflicts begin to get out of hand. Sandler delivers a knockout performance playing Howard Ratner. What I found intriguing with Uncut Gems was how Sandler can hold in his anger although you could tell he was going to explode or make another bad decision that opens even more ugly doors. Sandler starts to let the first world problems spiral out of control. The movie introduced us to all the problems he had going on, and what other problems he created, or was tempted to create. When something goes awry, he loses it easily. That is what makes Uncut Gems the perfect vehicle for Sandler’s best performance of his career. I have never seen him be able to play someone that can get so violent and distraught, and it all felt so real.
For the Safdie Brothers, this takes their previous movie Good Time (2017) to a whole different level. That film geared on one man trying to get his brother out of jail. Uncut Gems gears on Ratner trying to get away from all his irreparable problems, but also wanting to make loads of money from high-stake bets. I find the Safdie Brothers are talented at creating suspenseful movies with endings that are unexpected and brilliant. They had a brilliant, but unexpected ending with Good Time, and they have accomplished the same thing with Uncut Gems. There are moments in Uncut Gems where viewers will feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ratner, but there are twists that are unforeseen. Those twists had me asking myself more than once, “What just happened?” Uncut Gems will leave its audience in astonishment as it binds it all together.
Uncut Gems is a knockout performance that is also intense. However, the directing is astonishing, the screenplay is structured and luminous, and the suspense does not end. One conflict is either solved, failed, or put on hold, and then another scenario arises that is another mess for Ratner to try to figure out in a limited amount of time. The problem is the excuses that Ratner makes also have warnings with consequences and they begin to become increasingly embarrassing and risky. Experience this thriller about a con artist who cares about money, deals, and being rich and see what the outcomes of his poor decisions lead to. It is an audacious experience that I found to be one of the best films of the year. I can see Oscar buzz for Uncut Gems, and I am giving this movie four stars.