Uncut Gems: chaotic, relentless, and psychedelic, the rising Safdie brothers team up with one of my personal favorites, Adam Sandler, to deliver one of the most original and unhinged movies of the year .
Howard Ratner, “some crazy ass Jew” located in the Diamond District of New York, gambles himself deep into a hole as he tries to pull off the bet of a lifetime involving a black opal and Kevin Garnett.
There is no changing a man like Howard, who lives and dies by the rush of gambling and the possibility of winning big. He is the embodiment of one of man’s worst tendencies, to allow greed and desire overcome reason and morality, and through Howard, Uncut Gems emphasizes the danger of this in dramatic proportion. And Sandler takes full advantage of the opportunity he’s been given, once again proving he has the acting chops to be one of the best in Hollywood. Rewarded praise for the reserve he showed in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, he is anything but in Uncut Gems. As Howard, Sandler is off the hook, in your face, and exciting in his unpredictability.
The film opens up on some Ethiopian jewel mines where a worker had just broken his leg and his bone is visible. We then are transported through some trippy universe sequence only to end up inside Howard’s colon. Uncut Gems wastes no time establishing its tumultuous tone and skyrocketing your blood pressure. Everyone is screaming over each other, using crass language, and this creates a constant power dynamic which Howard stays on top of by the skin of his teeth; there’s an incredible use of atmosphere that turns the film into an anxiety-inducing rollercoaster.
As is consistent with A24 films, and I’m sure comparable to the film that put the Safdie brothers on the map, Good Time, Uncut Gems is both uncompromising in its vision and full of swagger, but what else would you expect from a film with a title unquestionably nodding at its anti-hero being Jewish. Daniel Lopatin’s (also known as Oneohtrix Point Never) 80s synth score is reminiscent of Vangelis, and the film thrives off the bustling vibe of New York. As a basketball fan, I appreciated the sports aspect of the story as well. Also, props to KG – we’ll make an actor out of you yet. However, I must admit that even I was sometimes overwhelmed by the Safdies’ style; there were times where they may have overstepped how chaotic they could be without becoming borderline unbearable. Uncut Gems is not for the faint of heart, and I do caution those going to see it that the film won’t be what you expect. There is no way to prepare for the experience of Uncut Gems. 8/10