The hype surrounding Uncut Gems has been ridiculous, but does it live up to it? In a word, yes. As he did in Funny People (Judd Apatow, 2009) and The Meyerowitz Stories (Noah Baumbach, 2017), Adam Sandler is deeply impressive in a dramatic role that makes one wonder why he doesn’t just retire from those God-awful frat boy comedies in which he specialises for good.
He plays Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweller with a gambling addiction, a failed marriage that he still pretends is fine to his kids, and a mistress who works in his shop. Ratner uses a rare black opal diamond as collateral in several accumulator bets on the performance of basketballer Kevin Garnett (playing himself). As the bets he places become ever more complex and hazardous and the lies he tells his family to insulate them from them become ever more complex, the web of deceit he has spun threatens to unravel, undoing the personal and professional lives of Ratner and everyone close to him.
Benny and Josh Safdie direct an intriguing cast (including The Weeknd and John Amos as themselves, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, and Judd Hirsch) from the profane, fast-paced script they co-wrote with Ronald Bronstein. Veteran cinematographer Darius Khondji brings the same eye-catching visuals that he brought to Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991) and Se7en (David Fincher, 1995).
Daniel Lopatin’s synth score is a powerful accompaniment that only occasionally becomes intrusive. All involved achieve the difficult task of spinning a yarn that manages to remain humorous even as it becomes unbearably tense. Sandler has once again demonstrated his considerable talent for dramedy. Overall, Uncut Gems is a suspenseful and gripping drama that recalls films like The Gambler (Karel Reisz, 1974), Fingers (James Toback, 1978), and Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992). It is available to stream now.