Uncut Gems

The Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, have created a gem of a film with this one starring Adam Sandler, with screenwriting by Ronald Bronstein and Martin Scorsese in the executive producer chair. A pitch-black comedy with frizzling tension from start to end, Uncut Gems (2019) shows us what you get when you mix a bunch of greedy gangsters, gambling addicts and swindling jewelers in NYC's Diamond District and then throw in a rare opal.

Howard Ratner (bulls-eye of a name, and played to a tee by Sandler at his all-time best) procures this chunky rock of iridescence from Jewish miners in Ethiopia, where the film begins. He owes something to just about everyone, from baddies to buddies to a basketball star, so he sees the opal as his way out. And if he plays his cards right, it'll leave him with more than enough dough to get his life not only back on track but coasting. He's got a wife and kids, but Julia, his girlfriend on the side played by Julia Fox, is more important to the plot and great to watch. Then there's the athlete Kevin Garnett (as himself) and also the singer known as The Weeknd (as himself) both causing Ratner grief. The guy can't catch a break, till maybe it's too late. A sleazeball tragedy. A film to put on the shelf next to Reservoir Dogs (1992), Snatch (2000), or Dog Day Afternoon (1975).

I liked it. It's an entertaining pressure cooker brimming with obnoxious characters and set to a unique soundtrack. The music is mostly Moog synthesizer pieces that compete in some scenes with the cacophony of voices which are also vying to outdo each other. The music in a gnawing way adds to the tension, and had me thinking of old space adventure B flicks, video games and roller-skating rinks in the 1980s, or maybe bottom-of-the-barrel 70s porn. This score and Sandler are what make Uncut Gems stand out, along with the style and vibe created by the Safdies.