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Review: Uncut Gems

Poster of Adam Sandler from A24 Film's UNCUT GEMS

It’s weird saying that a role in a serious movie was made for Adam Sandler, but I think that’s the case for the character he plays in Uncut Gems. Here you have a comedic actor who’s been in the game for more than two decades trying to make people laugh. Now, he’s starring in a drama like nothing he’s ever done before. This could be viewed as a risk, but as the guy he portrays in the film would likely believe, the gamble may have been worth it in the end.

In Uncut Gems, Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a high strung jeweler with a large appetite for sports gambling. Both as a gambler and as a jeweler, the native New Yorker is always on the lookout for his next big score. In some ways, his latest gambles in both fields of play see him taking a series of big-time chances. If successful, he could be in store for that elusive ultimate win he craves, but a loss, on the other hand, could spell the end for all he’s worked for.

As an avid gambler whose risk-taking brings him closer and closer to danger, Sandler’s Ratner is not your typical protagonist. He’s not even really an antihero either. If you’re going to label him, you might be better off just seeing him as a character with poor judgment who may simply feed off of excitement and instability. And to achieve that constantly, living on that “proverbial edge” is required for him.

Sandler portrays this guy in a way that’s mostly familiar to him and to us. The biggest difference is that he’s portraying a more serious version of his boisterous self in a movie that’s darker and more mature than normal. I wouldn’t have anticipated seeing his usual character work in a film that veers away from comedy as much as this one does, but it fits quite nicely.

As you get to know this guy, you may find yourself rooting for him in spite of his hang-ups and character flaws. Although he doesn’t appear to have too many redeeming qualities, you kind of hope that he’s able to overcome his obstacles and demons. When looking at him, it’s kind of easy to see why you may end up feeling this way.

This could be because he’s an interesting character, but it could also be partly due to his undeniable charisma and personality that he exudes throughout. I guess also having Sandler starring as a more adult version of his typical character could also have something to do with it. In that case, it may be hard not to root for him assuming you’ve been a fan of his for a while.

For some, blending this type of character with a dangerous sort of thriller/drama that is rarely showcased in film these days might make it feel like a dark comedy to some degree. I don’t know if that was the intention, but it works if you see it that way since Sandler’s portrayal of such a person can be rather amusing at times even when it shouldn’t.

You’ll find that the world that he exists in is a gritty one that’s mostly believable. That’s mostly because the events that are being highlighted could occur in real life. Including Sandler’s character, everything seems less outrageous and more genuine because of this. And here I was thinking he would have to change, but I was wrong.

As far as the film itself, one thing I enjoyed about it was the pacing. From the start, the movie is moving. I would describe it as being frantic but stable. You know everything that’s going on as soon as we enter the world that Howard Ratner has built over the years. We also get to know most of the important players involved pretty quickly.

For a movie that’s over two hours, the pacing is extremely important. Story-wise, it does slow down marginally during one period, but the energy never goes away. In a sense, it mirrors its main character and allows passionate people like a slightly fictionalized version of Kevin Garnett (along with a few more characters) to fit in seamlessly.

Speaking of Kevin Garnett, the former Boston Celtic may surprise you a bit. Not knowing anything about Uncut Gems beforehand, I assumed he’d have a cameo or something. I didn’t realize just how much of a central character he would turn out to be. In spite of his lack of acting experience, Garnett handled the job like a pro. And although he wasn’t the first choice, he proved to be a wise one.

The same can be said for some of the others including newcomer Julia Fox. I hadn’t seen her in anything before this, but I’m assuming I’ll see more from her in the future. Garnett, Fox, and the more established actors such as Lakeith Stanfield and Judd Hirsch assist in making this what it is. Even though Sandler gets the most screen time by far, everyone contributes and elevates what’s here.

Together, all of these guys keep the film moving as well as one might hope. Even when things aren’t happening in terms of the story, Uncut Gems feels like it never stops going forward toward its destination. There’s a constant energy that persists through it all that allows you to ride the wave in a fast-paced fashion.

That’s probably why Sandler fits so well here. He’s mostly portrayed high energy guys in the past and is starring in a film that is able to keep up with his pace. With that and all of the other positive additions, Uncut Gems comes together to form a very well made piece of cinema that the vast majority will be entertained by. Let’s just hope it gets the attention it deserves in one way or another.

Rating: R

Josh Safdie
Benny Safdie

Josh Safdie
Benny Safdie
Ronald Bronstein

Adam Sandler
Lakeith Stanfield
Julia Fox
Kevin Garnett
Idina Menzel
Eric Bogosian
Judd Hirsch

Film Length: 135 minutes

Release Date:
December 13th, 2019 (Limited)
December 25th, 2019 (Wide)

  • 8/10
    Score - 8/10
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