Uncut Gems Review: Sandler’s Big Gamble Pays Off The Underdog

4.5

Summary

Sandler’s gamble pays off in a big way in Uncut Gems, a film that proves DeLillo right about what happens when men are left to their own thoughts in small rooms. The Safdie brothers’ third act is ferocious, fervent, and one of the most jaw-dropping of the decade.”

The Safdie brothers are the new Polish brothers when it comes to their unique, one-of-a-kind visions. The only difference may be their films have a hard, manic edge. I’m not sure what possessed them to cast Bobby Boucher as a man with zero impulse control when it comes to almost anything to do with gambling, money, and women, but their big gamble paid off in a big way. Not only does Adam Sandler nail the part of Howard Ratner, not only do you walk away thinking this is Sandler’s career-best performance, but there is a moment in Uncut Gems’ glorious third act that you completely forget you are watching Sandler on the silver screen; that’s the ultimate compliment you can give any actor.

Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a fast-talking and yet practically charmless New York City jeweler that is showing all the classic signs of a mid-life crisis. He is having an affair with Julia, a young woman who happens to be his own employee (The Great American Mud Wrestle’s Julia Fox), and is winding down the clock on his marriage to Dinah (Frozen‘s Idinah Manzel), but keeps putting it off because of their three children. His associate Demany (Sorry to Bother You‘s Lakeith Stanfield) helps bring in big-spending clients (including Kevin Garnett), who Ratner needs a score from because his uncle Arno (a great Eric Bogosian) and his two goons keep stopping by to collect a gambling debt. To make things right, Ratner buys an Opal that he feels he can get almost a million dollars for at auction; that’s until he loans it to Garnett and feels such a connection to it that he doesn’t want to give it back.

Josh and Bennie Safdie directed Uncut Gems and also wrote the script along with frequent collaborator Ronald Bronstein (Heaven Knows Best). You can’t help but think producer Martin Scorcese had some influence with its manic edge, but it’s the script that builds slowly until the third act that’s suddenly ferocious, fervent, and one of the most jaw-dropping of the decade; it’s what separates Gems apart and to the top of the Safdie brothers’ filmography. This is all anchored by Sandler, who like DeNiro in this year’s film The Irishman, is in almost every scene of this film, which makes it all the more impressive.

There are two things that happen in Uncut Gems that engage you like no other this year. First, it’s the scene where Sandler repeats his mantra of, “This is how we win,” that is like lighting a stick of metaphorical dynamite and running out of the room to take cover. The second is the result of it all. The Safdie brother’s film is a work that proves the great Don DeLillo right about what happens to men when left to their own thoughts in small rooms, waiting, and then “struggling with secret and feverish ideas.” At some point, you’ll find yourself watching it all through your fingers as you cover your face because you can’t stand to see what’s going to happen before its jaw-dropping finale.

This is not a vanity exercise for its comedic star, but a display of great, fervent, artistic filmmaking. Go see it, because putting your money down for Uncut Gems is not a gamble.


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M.N. Miller

M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.

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