Uncut Gems (2019) – Film Review


In a crowded January schedule full of Oscar contenders, The Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems shines bright like a diamond…

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a New York jeweller who is up to his eyes in debt at the bookies. Upon receipt of an uncut opal stone, Howard sets in motion of chain of events that will either set him up for the ultimate win or find himself digging a deeper hole he won’t get out of.

It has many similarities with The Safdie Brothers’ previous film Good Time, which drew you in to the protagonist’s story and chase for resolution. Their skill is taking characters who are not likeable but still have you willing them to succeed.

Adam Sandler is someone who has delivered a number of questionable films over the years. To the point that finding a quality film or performance is like finding a sterling silver needle in a haystack. Or a diamond in the rough. Yet here, similar to how well Robert Pattinson gelled with the directors and the A24 brand, Sandler is absolutely magnetic. Just like the eponymous uncut gem, you cannot take your eyes off him. He channels that trademark anger and charm into arguably his finest performance since Punch Drunk Love.

He is like a cinematic Energiser Bunny. The Safdies harness that energy and use it like an adrenaline shot to the heart to propel the film forward. Darius Khondji’s kinetic cinematography and Daniel Lopatin’s score help maintain its breakneck pace that never takes its foot off the gas for a second.

It is one of the most intense movie-watching experiences of the year. Audiences will find themselves captivated and completely emotionally invested in the outcome of a basketball game… even if they are not sports fans. It is a film that grabs you by the scruff of the neck, drags you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there for the entire run-time.

Viewers with a Fitbit should switch it off with their phone prior to the screening or it will think they are going into cardiac arrest!

Ultimately some people i.e. The Academy, may find the film too exhausting and intense. However there is a bet to be made on potential Best Picture or Best Actor nominations. A bet that Howard himself would most certainly take. No matter how long the odds.

It was famously said that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. For fans of cinema, Uncut Gems is your new best friend.

Uncut Gems is on limited release at cinemas from 10th January and on Netflix from 31st January.

Director: The Safdie Brothers
Stars: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel
Runtime: 135 minutes 
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★★

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