By Adam M. Wilcox
Adam Sandler is one bad decision away from the rest of his life, in this fast paced thriller directed by Benny and Josh Safdie.
Sandler gives an outstanding performance as Howard Ratner, a fast talking Jewler from New York’s Diamond District, who is one bad day away from permanent retirement due his outstanding debt and gambling addiction. Ratner may be a jeweler by trade, but he’s a hustler at heart with his mind focused on the next big score. His life is set forth on a downward spiral as he comes upon a rare Ethyopian Opal which he believes will solve all his problems. What transpires over the next two hours is Ratner trying to fix one mistake by replacing it with an even bigger mistake.
He is not inherently evil, but you can still understand why he’s in so much trouble all the time. Sandler’s portrayal of Ratner is like the guy in a bar late at night trying to get approval from everyone. Nobody feels threatened by him, but most people would like to see him go away. His life is absolute chaos, mostly due to a series of bad decisions. This is not a story that is new to anyone. We have all seen the tale of a degenerate gambler that just can’t stop when he’s ahead, but for this A24 film, it’s all in it’s delivery.
Uncut Gems opens up on Ethiopia where the mcguffin of the movie is first discovered, and then we are literally introduced to Howard Ratner from the inside out. Once Sandler hits the screen the movies pace goes into warp speed, which is by design, but also to the film’s detriment. Uncut Gems wants to give it’s audience angle on the wall feel, without over use of exposition, but we are not given much time to introduce many of the other characters, nore the relationship they have with Ratner. When we are introduced to Julia Fox, she works in Sandler’s jewelry shop, but then she could be a girlfriend, or a call girl. Its really hard to figure out. One thing for sure is people will be talking about how well she fills out a black lacy teddy while teasing Ratner with some racy selfies.
The movie has a lot of overlapping dialogue and people shouting lines over one another so it is hard to figure out where it’s going. It took me about a good 45 minutes to figure out where we were, and where the movie wanted me to go. An old couple in front of me in the theater left about half way through, and that is probably because Sandler hasn’t dropped this many f bombs since his debut comedy album, “They’re All Gonna Laugh At You”. That’s not necessarily a problem I personally had with this movie, but I AM saying this is an A24 film, it’s not for everyone. The movie wants to go out of it’s way to show you how much stress, and pressure this guy is under, and wants to drag it’s audience into it at a thousand miles per hour. I personally feel this two hour run time needed a moment or two to slow down and give the audience time to breath a bit. It doesn’t really slow down until the 3rd act, and that was probably my favorite part of Uncut Gems. When the tension builds in the third act, and Ratner is on the verge of a full blown breakdown, that’s where Sandler really goes all in, and delivered the performance of his life.
Ultimately Uncut Gems is a decent movie with some breakout performance that unfortunately suffers from some pacing issues, and lack of character development, and overlapping dialogue that makes it hard to follow in the first two acts. I am giving this one a 3 out of 5 cheese curds.