A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, 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’ is a rollercoaster ride of a movie, a relentless, intense experience that has to be seen to be believed. It’s also one of the best films I’ve seen in some time and perhaps more surprisingly it’s got an outstanding Adam Sandler performance at its centre. Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, an erratic jeweller in New York City whose life is falling apart without him quite realising it. He’s a gambling addict up to his eyeballs in debts to loan sharks and his fancy home masks a loveless marriage to a wife who now hates him, with good reason it must be said. I found the film frankly exhausting to begin with and it takes a bit of time before I tuned into its wavelength, but once I was there I found this to be a thrilling piece of cinema.
The film mostly takes place over the course of a weekend as we follow Howard wheeling and dealing, attempting to keep his family, his mistress and his customers happy, whilst staving off the increasingly threatening loan sharks who are following him around like a shadow. He believes he can make all of these problems go away with one big score, relating to the sale at auction of a rare black opal gem that he’s just acquired. Howard is a brilliant creation and Sandler is superb in the role, playing him with a manic energy that is charismatic and sleazy at the same time. He’s a man constantly spinning plates, moving from one crisis to the other, and each knock he takes seems to just spur him on to his next gambit. As the losses and knocks keep piling up, Howard’s behaviour becomes more erratic and he starts to take bigger risks, culminating in an outstanding conclusion that’s as intense as anything I’ve seen since ‘Whiplash’.
The Safdie Brothers burst on to the scene with ‘Good Time’, a relentless crime caper reminiscent of the films that were getting made in the 70s, and ‘Uncut Gems’ is the next stage in their evolution into two of the most exciting filmmakers currently operating. ‘Uncut Gems’ is a riveting thriller with a stunning lead performance and I think it might be the first genuine masterpiece of this new decade.
Directed By: Benny & Josh Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, Mike Francesa, Judd Hirsch, Keith Williams Richards and Pom Klementieff