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“Uncut Gems” A Shining Jewel

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

At first you may be taken aback by the performance of Adam Sandler in the movie Uncut Gems, but after you get to know his character the actor’s performance is one of the best this year. Not really a serious character actor, Sandler is best known for his slapstick comedy and films that resonate with the 18 to 35 crowd. Here however, he’s a serious gambling addict that doesn’t know when to stop even if he scores big while betting on sports and other games of chance. It’s a role by him you will not believe and one that he’s very far from his normal element, but just the same it’s a mesmerizing tour de force.

Fast dealing diamond dealer Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) knows how to draw in a mark and sell him some of the most valuable jewels. However, his acumen for the business is stymied by his gambling addiction and he uses his profits from sales to place bets through his bookie. He’s very fast paced in his talking, demeanor, intellect and deception and has found a gem challenge that will put him in command of a multimillion of dollar deal.

Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems from A24 Films

For a few years he’s been trying to get raw jewels, the ones that are still encapsulated in stone. Finding one available on the black market, he sends for an uncut opal found in an Ethiopian mine. He pays a hefty price for something he instantly knows he can parlay into his million dollar dream. With the help of his shill Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) he puts a connection together with Basketball great Kevin Garnett (self) who is looking for a gem to bring him luck. Kevin feels extremely good vibes for Ratner’s uncut jewel and he offers to buy the stone. But, he wants to take it with him and test it out before making the final decision. When Kevin starts to score big in his first game after obtaining the stone, Ratner feels he’s got a lock on millions of profit.

But, with all good stories there are always consequences, twists and problems that lead the protagonist in a string of challenges. It’s that way with Uncut Gems and Directors Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie show their fine ability in this shell game of life and unpredictability. The character in this script has to be a fast talker, very knowledgeable about gems, knows how to place bets and has a lot of luck in choosing winners. While Ratner has all of the above, under pressure he does make mistakes and it effects the protagonist’s arc bending it into a pretzel. But, Adam Sandler’s depiction of this man is what makes the film contagious to the very end.

Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, Kevin Garnett as himslef, and LaKeith Stanfield as Demany in Uncut Gems from A24 Films

As mentioned in the opening statement Adam Sandler knows how to make an audience laugh, but with this film it becomes no laughing matter. Uncut Gems however, features a man who is spiraling down heading for the ultimate crash landing. Playing a role outside his comfort zone takes the ability to switch gears and change a personality so opposite that if the actor doesn’t succeed the whole project fails. With that in mind, I believe his audience here will be astonished at his ability to make the film work. I say Oscar nomination.

Uncut Gems has been rated R by the MPAA for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use. Be careful when deciding to take immature children to the film as the R warning is explicit.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The fast pace, the nerve-racking dialogue, the pinpoint direction, and the twist are worth the watch. (5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett as self, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch
Directed and written by: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
Genre: Drama, Crime, Comedy
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use
Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Opening Date: December 25, 2019
Distributed by: A24
Released in: Theaters

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