UNCUT GEMS (NETFLIX) (2019)
SYNOPSIS: 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.
If you think this is a typical Adam Sandler movie, don’t. This is a serious movie where everyone seems to be screaming at the top of their lungs in New York city. Everyone seems edgy, everyone seems easily agitated and angry. So don’t watch Uncut Gems if you are not in that kind of mood.
Gorgeously shot by Darius Khondji (The Beach, The Lost City of Z) and written, directed by indie filmmakers, Josh and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems takes audience on a two hours journey with shady jeweller Howard Ratner (Sandler). Unlike any other Hollywood offerings out there, it is indeed a nerve-wracking experience watching the fast-talking, compulsive gambler heading towards his downfall and self-dig grave.
But before you feel sympathetic towards his plight, Howard in short is actually quite a sleazebag. He runs a small-jewellery business, is married with kids, has a live-in girlfriend, Julia (newcomer Julia Fox) in his apartment and worst of all, he is in lots of debts and one of his debtors happened to be his brother-in-law Arno who is also a loan shark. Howard wiggles his way day in and out to get more loan and money just to make bigger bets which explains why his debts snowballed. But now, Howard is betting on an opal that could perhaps turn his fortune around.
Although Uncut Gems is an interesting watch, it can also be exhausting. As mentioned earlier, it’s a movie that is overwhelmingly filled with too much noise and wisecrack. Complicating matters is the repetitive ongoing saga between real-life NBA player Kevin Garnett’s penchant for the opal and Howard. At the same time, Arno and his trusty henchmen, Phil and Nico keeps appearing at every corner to bounce on Howard. Is Howard able to get out of this evil cycle using his magic gem?
All thanks to his on point dramatic performance, Sandler is amazing as Howard Ratner. He is longer Billy Madison, the wedding singer or the man-child from Grown Ups, Sandler is a tour de force in Uncut Gems and he very much at least deserve an Oscar acting nomination which he is sadly omitted.
For cinephiles who loved anything by Martin Scorsese (he is listed as executive producer here) and Quentin Tarantino will love the Safdie brothers’ second full-length feature after Good Time. Again, this is definitely not a title for longtime fans of Happy Madison stuff. For those however who stick with Howard Ratner till the end will find it a worthy journey to embark on especially the last sweaty 20 minutes which is both thrilling and surreal to watch.
Review by Linus Tee