Friday, December 27, 2019

[Review] Uncut Gems

Following their grimy breakout crime-thriller Good Time, Benny and Josh Safdie throw down their bets on Uncut Gems, a high-stakes rush that features a dramatic tour de force performance from — yes — Adam Sandler.

Sandler plays a wheeling, dealing jeweler and degenerate gambler who somehow probably even owes God money. When he concocts a scheme involving an imported opal from Ethiopia, a pawned NBA championship ring, and an insane sporting bet, he finds himself in an absolute mess. 

It’s a jackpot of engrossing chaos that grips hold and never lets up. It’s a cinematic panic attack that shatters glass and lives on the edge. It’s a neon and blacklight soaked rollercoaster ride that goes off the rails and crashes into a torrent of dooming synths.

The film sizzles and sprints with frenetic energy, while escalating at every turn and questionable decision. It sustains that frantic pace and heart-pounding exhilaration over the course of 130 minutes. Just when you think Howard can’t dig himself any deeper — he does. There are so many moments here that will make you put your hands on top of your head and shake no. Howard is the type of guy that you look at and think “I’m glad that’s not me.” Along the way, we witness him get shaken down at a middle school play, wind up naked in the trunk of a Mercedes, and engage in a physical altercation with R&B artist The Weeknd — and that’s only scratching the surface! 

Adam Sandler is terrific here, proving that he can anchor a serious role with convincing heft and make the right material pop with impressive precision. He embodies this character with unshakeable sleaze and a sense of desperation that could excavate an entire city. He truly deserves an Oscar nomination for this role. Lakeith Stanfield, Edina Menzel, Julia Fox, and NBA legend Kevin Garnett (who’s surprisingly great in a very significant role - Anything is possible, KG!) round out the stellar supporting cast. 

By the end of Uncut Gems I was sweating and sitting at the edge of my seat. It’s only after the credits roll when you can finally catch your breath, and even then — all bets are off. 

* 9/10 *

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