Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a New York diamond dealer who just doesn’t know when to say ‘no’. If there’s a ridiculous risk, he has to take it as if competing against the odds gives meaning to his life. Yet, in denial over his tattered marriage and in debt to his loan shark brother-in-law, this time he may have gone too far. In loaning out an uncut gem to a rich basketball player whilst secretly pawning off their NBA Championship ring, the vultures of Howard’s life gather, patiently waiting to feed on his bones…
Witness just how good Adam Sandler can be and then wrestle with the question of why. Why if he's this damn good - why, can't he be like this always?
From the very opening scenes of the Safdie Brothers Uncut Gems, we are clearly in an updated version of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. Hustles are run, bets are taken and everyone is on the make off somebody else. With it’s decaying yellow and green, over-saturated palette of grainy textures, the feel is of an ostentatious world with quarry fulls of dirt underneath its buffed fingertips.
Credibly carrying the whole enterprise into overtime is the front and centre magnificence of Adam Sandler’s performance as Howard. Yes, that Adam Sandler as in white America’s answer to latter career Martin Laurence and Eddie Murphy’s gross-out movies. Yet he, for the Safdie brothers his John Turturro-like presence makes this movie essential viewing. Alongside Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, this is a transformative performance for the ages. In a story which documents a life chaotically unravelling, Adam Sandler finds a perfect blend of Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and crippling self-pity that is all his own.
Surrounded by Wicked‘s Idina Mendel as his indifferent wife, Talk Radio‘s Eric Bogosian as his pallid, brother-in-law and breakout star Julia Fox as his wastrel girlfriend, this is a film positively brimming with excess riches.
With cinematographer Darius Khondji’s ammonia-like 35mm film stock positively sapping the life out of Howard’s chances, and even despite a needlessly over-the-top score by Daniel Lopatin, Uncut Gems is still a singular presence in an ocean of orange and teal offerings.
See it. Witness it. Witness just how good Adam Sandler can be and then wrestle with the question of why. Why if he’s this damn good – why, can’t he be like this always? The answer? It’s because in Hollywood’s universe of opals, vehicles this flawlessly matched only come by once in a lifetime.
See it. It really is that good.