Reel Reviews | Uncut Gems

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Adam Sandler breaks his mold in the Safdie brothers’ mind-blowing drama, Uncut Gems.

Howard Ratner is a Jewish New York City jewelry dealer who has come across the rarest of gems. A victim of his own unbridled emotional outbursts, he inexplicably shows the gem to Kevin Garnett who borrows it for inspiration while the Celtics are in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Ratner is deep in debt to his brother-in-law among others and must get the stone back in order to auction it off to pay his significant debts.

Written by Ronald Bronstein and Josh and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems is an intense drama that allows comedian Adam Sandler to exhibit his serious acting skills. The film is also directed by Josh and Benny Safdie (Good Time) also known as the Safdie Brothers. It stars Sandler, Idina Menzel, LaKeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, Kevin Garnett as himself and The Weeknd, also as himself.

Uncut Gems is frenetic in its pace much like the earlier Safdie brothers movie Good Time. It is a hardcore, adrenaline-fueled version of The Gambler, with much of the same plot but less of the detail. While The Gambler was slow and methodical, Gems is a ride on the Autobahn, violently whizzing past the audience on the screen. The story is aggressive assault upon the senses that goes in a direction that does not seem to make
sense. Yet the Safdie brothers seem to be well-accustomed with making their audience uncomfortable.

But, Adam Sandler. This performance by Sandler is a weirdly delightful departure from his work on films like The Waterboy or even Grown Ups. It is a mean, unlikable role that he portrays in this film that is undeniably captivating. Sandler abandons all his comical humor and gives a dark performance that is so amazingly different from anything save 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, it seems absolutely credible.

This movie is intense and frenetic. The Safdie brothers do a great job of capturing the fast paced, seat of your pants lifestyle of the New York diamond district. However, if you are unfamiliar with the culture and atmosphere depicted this movie is a little off-putting. There are some scriptural inconsistencies that will make the audience wonder about some of the choices that Ratner makes but the same thing happened with
Wahlberg’s Jim Bennett. Ultimately, it is the clever creativity of the Safdie brothers and the acting of Sandler that save the film.

Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use, Uncut Gems is not a great movie. It hurts to watch and is hard to track but Sandler is astounding. The Safdie brothers take the audience on an emotional roller-coaster with an ending that comes out of left field.

Grade: B