Best known for his hilarious work on “Saturday Night Live” and his god awful comedy films, Adam Sandler delivers a performance so on-key and so pitch perfect in “Uncut Gems” that we forget we’re witnessing the work of an actor.
Written and Directed by Benny and Josh Safdie (AKA the Safdie Brothers), “Uncut Gems” follows a few days in the life of Howard “Howie” Ratner, a Jewish New York City jewel dealer struggling to pay off various debts and an addict to the thrill of gambling. When Howie’s business associate secures NBA star Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics as a client, Howie tries to deal him a rare Ethiopian diamond that he recently got a hold of. As Howie attempts to secure the deal over the diamond, he struggles to balance his crumbling family life, high-risk business endeavors and his increasing debts that frustrate the wrong people.
The Safdie Brothers excel as filmmakers by constantly inducing conflict throughout the film and engaging the audience from start to finish with heart-stopping tension. Howie is constantly making things worse for himself and doing the absolute worst thing he possibly could in each situation, making us want to hop into the screen and slap him across the face to save himself from his horrible decision making. The directors generate consistent intensity by having Howie pervasively trying to fix his own doing and have him on the phone yelling and swearing. We as an audience never get a chance to catch our breathe, yet are still able to observe Howie as a character and analyze the true danger of his selfish personality and reckless lifestyle.
Howie is an obnoxious individual absorbed in his own vice, one we both can’t stand yet can’t keep away from. Sandler gives this slime-ball of a character a certain charisma and energy that makes him impossible to turn away from and carries the entire duration of the film with his electric and loose-canon of a performance. The already famous entertainer delivers the best performance of his career and redefines how we view him as an actor. Despite being an absolute snake of a human being, we somehow want Howie to succeed and get out of his predicaments due to Sandler’s comedic charm that he instills in the character.
This is a very fast-paced film fueled with kinetic intensity and bleeding with style due to the Safdie Brothers’ skills as directors and Sandler’s game-changing performance. Outside of opening and ending with some questionable visuals, “Uncut Gems” will leave you on the edge of your seat and hit you with an absolute punch of a third and final act. This is one of the most entertaining films of the year and shows off just how mesmerizing Adam Sandler can be as a dramatic actor and screen presence when given proper material.
Final Grade: A
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.