“Hubris is interesting, because you get people who are often very clever, very powerful, have achieved great things, and then something goes wrong – they just don’t know when to stop.” -Margaret MacMillan
I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, chances are you’ve heard of it. I come from a place where hubris is not only rampant but of great use for those not on the wrong side of a casino table. In the business of gambling, the house wants you to enter with hubris- they want a walking embodiment of arrogance because that means statistically speaking they’re going to win more with a prideful person than with a man of caution. As unfair is it may be, the silver lining is that when someone loses or wins, it usually doesn’t end in violence. As tilted as the table is at least you’re not leaving in a body bag. Of course this all takes place within a casino, what about the seedier places where regulation is an ill-tempered man with a baseball bat? Or worse…
Uncut Gems tells the tale of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a beguiling New York City jeweler in constant pursuit of the next big bet, the next major score. You could say he’s addicted to gambling and he would say you’re a little late to the party- the balloons have popped, the soda’s gone flat, the alcohol all consumed to excess. His greatest weakness is thinking the next great win is right around the corner even as his entire world is turning on him, crumbling from under him, on top of him, all around him. His sports betting is a desire he can never fully satiate, leading him down more and more precarious roads littered with nefarious types, those ill-tempered ones I mentioned before, with the baseball bats. Still he presses on, believing this time will be different. If you’re familiar with the Safdie Brother’s previous effort you’ll know they don’t exactly thrive in the world of happily ever after.
Featuring one of the most frenetic stories of the year, Uncut Gems starts at an eleven and rarely lets up, even when it looks like things might just work out, especially then. The Safdie Bros. like to promote authenticity in the performances of their casts. This often means, especially in the worlds they explore, that people are crass, abrasive, and cold-hearted. They have demands and zero use for excuses. Adam Sandler turns in a performance that is humorous but in a way that is detrimental to his character’s health. He doesn’t know when to shut up, when to walk away, and quite frankly when to run away screaming. He is a selfish addict whose inclinations have severed every tie that was ever worth a damn. Sandler conveys a man torn apart by his own choices still trying to climb up the very path that has shredded him and threatens to finish him once and for all. He plays, convincingly so, a man that couldn’t be convinced an investment in fire insurance is a good idea if his hair was on fire. He would say you’re overreacting and keep on betting.
“Why can’t you save anybody?” -The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Rarely do you ever experience such a visceral, hyperactive story as this, with such command behind the camera. Uncut Gems is only their second feature film but possesses all the bravado, all the wisdom of a seasoned filmmaker. The Safdie Bros. demonstrate once again their voice is one of originality but with the temperament of a crack addict robbing a bank with a rocket launcher just to get their next hit. This story is often scary simply because of how unforgiving the characters are, how naive they can be, and just how quickly a situation can go from manageable to absolute clusterfuck seemingly in the blink of an eye, or more aptly put, the pull of a trigger.
This is Adam Sandler like you’ve never seen him before. He is funny at times but not in his usual playful way. He is precarious and troublesome, sticking to things like gum on a shoe. The people he encounters are either in the process of discovering he’s full of shit or found out long ago and want reparations for his constant betrayal. His is in a balancing act for his life at times asking for empathy only to remind everyone he’s the reason for his own downfall, as slow a death as it may be.
Uncut Gems is one of the best films of 2019 with a definite nomination for Original Screenplay in its very near future. In a year absolutely packed to the brim with best actor possibilities, his nomination isn’t guaranteed but unquestionably earned. He proves here once and for all that he is in fact an actor, capable of things not usually on display in his more familiar style movies. The Safdie Bros. show yet again they are a force to be reckoned with and possess a voice that will be heard for some time to come. Uncut Gems is a roller coaster ride from hell always delving into the more discomforting moments of uncontrolled gambling. And that’s putting it mildly.
Rated R For: pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use
Runtime: 135 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Starring: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, LaKeith Stanfield
Directed By: Benny & Josh Safdie
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing:4.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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