Billy Madison with a gambling problem is what one would think when taking a look at “Uncut Gems”. But this story of a jeweler who lives by the philosophy of risking it all and worrying about the consequences later, is easily one of the best performances of Adam Sandler’s career. Forget his catalog of mostly bad movies. He deserves to be taken very seriously here.
Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, who has just received a rare fist sized Ethiopian gem that he plans on using to springboard out of gambling debts that are about to get him killed. When basketball great, Kevin Garnett, starts believing the stone gives him the power to be unbeatable, Howard decides to dive deeper into his life risking addiction by betting the house on Garnett in an effort to not only pay off the gangsters, but to earn an even bigger score for himself in the process. The severely underrated LaKeith Stanfield also stars as one of Sandler’s business connections.
What makes this a great film is Sandler. He is just so despicable and we see him pull out some tools that he’s never used before in other films. Howard Ratner is despicable and in any other movie he would very well be the villain. Still, the film surrounds him with a family and a small window of redeeming behavior that allows us to keep rooting for him. The suspense that stretches for almost the entirety of the movie is also very strong and very difficult to watch.
The negative here is actually the music the film decides to use. It’s an annoying cacophony of sound that directors Benny and Josh Safdie insists on playing at such a high volume for the first ten minutes, and then periodically throughout the film. Sandler is so good here, I would have rather heard the silence of Howard trying to figure this all out than this audible mess.
“Uncut Gems” is still definitely worth your time. It’s something unique that we haven’t gotten a lot of this year and Sandler deserves the hype he’s getting on the awards circuit for this one. Check it out and prepare for an experience that puts enough pressure on it’s audience to produce one of the diamonds you’ll see in this film.
Running time: 2hrs 12 minutes.