"Uncut Gems" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Adam Sandler breaks away from his usual typecast roles to play Howard Ratner in the Safdie Brother's second mainstream film, "Uncut Gems". His character is cruel, profane, awkward, which is very odd to see since audiences always think of Sandler's goofy and funny roles he has portrayed throughout his career. However, this is perhaps one of his best roles, and because of that, creates an amazing film that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout the entire runtime.
Howard is a New York City jeweler that makes lots of bets and deals with high-profile people. He is fast-talking, and can easily talk his way into or out of something. This is the main reason he is so disconnected from his ex-wife (Idina Menzel) and his children, while also trying to keep a relationship with his new girlfriend, Julia (Julia Fox).
When he makes a deal with NBA star Kevin Garnett, trading a priceless diamond for Garnett's NBA championship ring for an NBA game, he trades Garnett's ring to make a deal with someone else. Now trying to get back Garnett's ring due to him being threatened by Garnett and his management team, he must also pay back the debt he owes his wife's family, who is also targeting him and his business.
This movie can only be described as so horrible that it's amazing. By saying that, I mean that the things that happen throughout this movie and the characters are so horrible, so cruel, but this is what makes the movie so good. It's like a train wreck in a way, it's impossible to look away. And because of this, the movie moves at such a breakneck speed that it's impossible for the viewer to catch their breath. In some cases, this wouldn't work and would fail as a movie. Yet, with how the Safdies directed and wrote this movie, they do such a great job of making it entertaining and keeping the viewers engaged and never fall behind.
Sandler gives such an impressive and great performance in this movie. Like mentioned earlier, this is radically different from any other role he has played before. Howard is a very horrible and despicable character, but with Sandler's charm, it is hard not to like him. In any other case, if any other actor was playing him, I don't think this character would work. Consider the final part of the film, where Howard has his ex-wife's family and hitmen locked in his little box entrance at the jewelry shop. He is watching the basketball game that is on, where he has bet thousands on Garnett's team to win. The way his character reacts and the energy that Sandler gives off is incredible, and I think he perfectly embodies this dirty and disgusting character.
I think the inclusion of the characters around Howard are great as well. On one hand, we have his ex-wife and his kids, who just want a husband and father who care about them and can grow up and be an adult. Yet, on the other side, he has this new girlfriend who is just as reckless and damaged as he is. He is stuck wanting to be in both worlds, but having to pick one. On the flip side of the coin, he is now having to also deal with high-profile celebrates and hitmen coming after him due to wrong choices he has made throughout his career. In a way, it seems like Howard is stuck, and he doesn't really know where to go. This gives the film a claustrophobic atmosphere to it, which the Safdies Brothers are really good at creating for their films and shorts.
I really liked the inclusion of various popular icons and celebrities in the plot for this film. The movie includes Garnett, The Weeknd, Trinidad James, and others. It seems like the Safdies took these characters, and totally embodied them in the real world. It's interesting to see this as this is what actually happens in cities like New York and Los Angeles, consisting of the seedy underground and disturbed characters like Howard.
It's like what Sandler says in an interview for this film, where Howard makes so many bad decisions, but you care for him and want him to succeed and be successful in life. I think that's what makes this movie so good, and does a great job of telling this nasty and disturbing story that works on so many different levels. The Safdies know how to tell a story like this and make it so compelling and interesting, making the viewers fall in love with the characters and what is going on in this world. This is evident in both this film, and their first mainstream movie, "Good Time", and I honestly can't wait to see what the brothers do next.