Uncut Gems

Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, 2019


Following a decade of independent successes, the Safdie Brothers were have found their breakout hit with Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler who relishes in the opportunity to show off his dramatic acting ability as a New York City jeweller struggling to balance his frenetic life together.

Sandler shines as Howard Ratner, a jewellery store owner trying to pay off his various debts around the city. It is a performance of great detail with the capability of giving you all range of emotions from hope to despair, capturing the fragility of human desire and the rollercoaster of emotions involved in high-stakes gambling.

This fantastic lead performance weds perfectly with the films audio and visual style. The Safdie Brothers employ fast-paced editing and use sound-mixing to give an unsettling feeling of anxiety with non-stop talking between restless characters, evoking the master level of control of Robert Altman's films such as the equally gripping and insightful California Split.

As the plot advances so do the feelings of adrenaline and dread. Layers upon layers are added, continuously upping the stakes as plots begin to converge. This mixture of style and story allows us to experience the palpable buzz involved in addiction and gambling. Despite the often infuriating actions of our protagonist, Adam Sandler manages to bring a vulnerability that means we find ourselves rooting for his character despite the bad choices he makes, hoping that somehow he will finally succeed.

The backdrop of New York City illuminates the films in ways reminiscent of Seventies filmmakers such as Sidney Lumet and the fast-paced plot is handled with a level of assuredness that makes the film feel controlled despite its chaos. The Safdie Brothers ask us to strap in, to go along with Howard on his journey and when the result is delivered with such precision, exuding confidence and quality, it is impossible to resist. 

Written by Daniel Metcalf

Daniel Metcalf