Time: 135 Minutes
Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner
Julia Fox as Julia
Idina Menzel as Dinah Ratner
Lakeith Stanfield as Demany
Kevin Garnett as himself
Eric Bogosian as Arno
Director: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
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.
Uncut Gems was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. The Safdie Brothers impressed me quite a bit with Good Time back in 2017, and so I was interested in seeing what they would do next. Also the fact that Adam Sandler was cast in the lead role interested me, because I just knew that he was going to return to being dramatic Sandler even for just one movie, and basing off of Punch Drunk Love, I knew that he would be great. Uncut Gems on the whole was great, and one of the highlights of the year.
Uncut Gems is another thriller from the Safdies, this time it’s a different kind of thriller. There’s a bunch of things going on at once, with lead character Howard Ratner constantly placing bets while being heavily in debt. Although there are moments to breathe (with a movie a 2 hours and 15 minutes long you’d expect that to be the case), you are constantly aware of the danger that is present, and the stakes are high for our main character. Every time things go right for Howard, he does something to put himself into dangerous situations again, usually by placing another bet. The tension just keeps being raised and raised even further. It’s full of energy constantly from start to finish, and the characters are very well realised. The second act does slow down the pace quite a bit for some reason, and while it was fine, it was rather out of place. The third act was particularly great, very suspenseful and effective, concluded by a fitting ending.
Much of the talk is about how great Adam Sandler is, and the talk is well deserved. I’d go so far as to say that this is his best performance, and having seen Punch Drunk Love, that’s saying a lot. While you can definitely tell it’s Sandler all the way through, he performs his character of Howard Ratner perfectly, I can’t see anyone else in this role. Howard is not a good person, he’s not very likable, and he could’ve easily been obnoxious to watch on screen. Sandler however manages to get you to tolerate him and even root for him, even when he often keeps digging himself into a deeper grave. He has this immense energy in him that works perfectly for the character. The movie is already great, but even if it wasn’t, it would be worth watching for his performance alone. That’s not all though, the supporting cast does well too, including Idina Menzel as Howard’s wife, and Lakeith Stanfield who is good as always. Former professional basketball plater Kevin Garnett actually plays himself as part of the plot, and he’s actually a really good actor, he’s great here. Eric Bogosian does some effective work as a loanshark that Howard is in debt to. A standout among the supporting cast (and that’s saying a lot) however is Julia Fox as Howard’s girlfriend. I think this is Fox’s first movie, and he leaves quite a strong impression in this movie, and I hope she gets a lot more roles from her work here.
The Safdie Brothers has once again directed this incredibly. I’m not sure how it’s possible for them to top Good Time on a directing level at least, but they’ve done it here. It’s well shot and edited from start to finish, one of the highlight scenes took place at a nightclub. The tense scenes are made even more tense by how it is directed. If possible, see this in a cinema, though I’m aware that due to some weak distribution that’s not always possible (certainly wasn’t the case for me). The music by Daniel Lopatin worked quite well, fitting the fast paced nature of the rest of the movie.
Uncut Gems is great, and one of the highlights of the year. It’s written and directed incredibly well by the Safdie Brothers, and the cast is great, especially with a career best performance from Adam Sandler. It’s a movie I’d like to revisit for sure.