Title – Uncut Gems (2019)
Directors – Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie (Good Time)
Cast – Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Tommy Kominik, Keith Williams Richards, Pom Klementieff, Idina Menzel, Tilda Swinton
Plot – New York jewellery dealer Howard Ratner (Sandler) plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse with his fortunes on his quest to strike it rich and well and truly make it as a high roller.
“I don’t even know what to do with my money anymore”
Review by Eddie on 03/02/2020
Breaking out with 2017 effort Good Time, directing duo Benny and Josh Safdie quickly became one of the most talked about up and coming filmmaking prospects in Hollywood, with their Robert Pattinson starring thriller showcasing a knack the brothers had for crafting a frenetic thriller filled with abundant energy and visuals, that if refined further, could create something truly special.
Fast forward to the now and that promise has indeed come to fruition with Uncut Gems, one of the most insanely tense and energetic offerings to come our way in the last few years, as the brothers employment of the perhaps never better Adam Sandler as Jewish New York based jeweler Howard Ratner takes us on a unique and inspired ride through the Big Apple’s diamond district, in what is an unpredictable and gripping affair that is deserving of the hype it has generated.
It’s hard to put into words just how sweat inducing and hold your breath like Uncut Gems is to the uninitiated, as scenes such as Ratner yelling at a basketball game or fixing a broken automatic door don’t sound like the staples of thrilling movie viewing but under the guidance of the Safdie brothers and delivered by Sandler, these such scenarios all combine to ensure that this dialogue heavy offering refuses to let us catch a break across its two hour plus runtime.
Built around some brilliantly realised sound design, often creating the feeling that we are listen to two or three conversations at once but never confused as to what we are hearing, some breakneck editing courtesy of Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, in your face cinematography by famed D.O.P Darius Khondji and one of the previous year’s best musical scores by Daniel Lopatin, Uncut Gems is the full package that has been conjured up by the clear and singular vision of its talented creators.
All this magic behind the scenes would’ve mattered for little had the Safdie siblings not been able to get the right people involved to enact out their vision in front of the camera but alongside side players like Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, NBA legend Kevin Garnett (playing himself!) newcomer Julia Fox, the Safdie brothers struck gold when they secured Sandler as Howard, a role it feels as though he was born to play.
Ratner is one of the most fascinating cinematic creations of recent memories, a not very likable self-serving businessman who is at all times placing himself first above all others including friends, family and mistress, he feels both entirely different to the persona Sandler has developed over decades in Hollywood but also one that perfectly suits his loud-mouth and quick talking repertoire, that see’s the often misunderstood and lazy comedian/actor finally stretching his ability to what has now become universally praised results.
In almost every scene of this expletive-laden exercise, Sandler is utterly convincing throughout the Safdie brothers exercise, managing in the process too get us to root for Howard as his life threatens to de-rail around building financial debts and the recent possession of a potentially magical rock filled with Ethiopian gems.
It’s unlikely we will ever see Sandler again find a role that fits him so perfectly, with it a shame the Academy Award members overlooked his impressive turn in the Best Acting category at the 2020 Oscars, a field he well and truly deserved to be a part of.
Final Say –
While there’s certain plot developments and occurrences that might not stand up to intense scrutiny, Uncut Gems is a undeniable energy rush of a feature film, that is both a thrilling exercise in extended tension building and a stunning showcase for the rarely seen ability of Sandler, who has never been better than he is here.
4 ½ Furby necklaces out of 5