Nowadays Adam Sandler’s movies are ones I either cringe at or generally avoid altogether. He can be a truly talented actor when given the right material, but it’s few and far between when he gets to showcase that talent.
Thankfully, his latest film, “Uncut Gems,” allows him to tap into that potential and the results are extremely difficult to sit through while simultaneously rewarding.
Let me put it this way: “Joker” now has some serious competition for being the most anxiety-ridden film of the year.
Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a man who owns a jewelry store in New York and gets his hands on a rare gem that he intends to auction off at millions.
Also in his life, he’s struggling to pay back his brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian) after a series of gambling debts. It doesn’t help matters much when he’s estranged from his wife (Idina Mendzel) and sharing an apartment with his mistress (Julia Fox).
NBA player Kevin Garnett plays a version of himself and he’s interested in buying the gem, but only if Howard gets some collateral from him in the form of his championship ring.
Things go from bad to worse for Howard as a series of loan sharks are relentlessly pursuing him to pay back his debts. Relentless might be the best way to describe this entire film.
Sandler gives arguably the best performance of his career. We want to root for Howard to find a way out of his predicaments, but with each escape, he wants to find another way to gamble on that success and make more money. That only makes Howard dig a deeper and deeper hole.
The directors, Josh and Benny Safdie, are confident and competent with this material. The movie is like having a panic attack for 2 hours and 15 minutes. It never allows itself or us to breathe and be right at the center of Howard’s dilemma every step of the way.
At the beginning of the film, we think we know what kind of tone the movie might present. However, by the end, with so many curves thrown our way, we’re just happy it’s over.
We have no idea how this journey is going to end. Neither does Howard.
Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use.
Justin Hall is a syndicated movie critic in South Georgia.