Uncut Gems (2019)
Uncut Gems (2019)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.

Release Date: December 25th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie Actors: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Aranbayev, Jacob Igielski, Noa Fisher, Eric Bogosian




t the Welo Mine in Ethiopia in 2010, a miner’s leg injury causes an upheaval amongst the workers and supervisors. At the same time, deep underground, an unfazed duo discover a massive gem. Two years later, in New York City, 48-year-old Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) undergoes a colonoscopy at the hospital. When he returns to his jewelry shop, KMH, he’s shaken down by thugs sent by a man trying to collect $100,000 owed for some bad debts.

A short time later, Kevin Garnett and his crew turn up at the showroom, forcing Howard to divert plenty of attention to the high-rolling basketball star. But it doesn’t stop the jeweler from ignoring his disgruntled employees in favor of unwrapping a million-dollar opal, which Garnett negotiates to keep overnight – as a lucky charm for the game that evening. Of course, Howard snags the NBA pro’s championship ring as collateral, which he pawns for some quick cash to place hasty bets.

Ratner’s life is hectic and spontaneous, which is instantly annoying. The supporting characters mostly appear as if non-actors (and, indeed, many of them are recognizable celebrities), lending a certain realism to the nonstop ordeal of Howard’s compulsive gambling, general financial recklessness, and negligent parenting. But the majority of the dialogue crowds the audio, overlaps to the point of unintelligibility, or gets lost in heated arguments. And, most aggravating of all, is the soundtrack music, which is so overbearing, unfitting, and disruptive that character lines are frequently difficult to make out. And the mood of the music is always wrong; when it should be tenser, it’s melodic or choral, and when it should be calmer, it’s frenzied and dark. The score is perhaps the most upsetting piece of an incredibly pitiful jumble of poor editing decisions, even if they’re collectively orchestrated to create a specific vibe.

“I don’t need your watch; it probably fell off a truck anyway.” The characters are morally bankrupt, which makes it difficult to care about any of their various plights or overall wellbeing – or even their ultimate outcomes. Nevertheless, Sandler’s performance is amusing, if only because it’s a grand departure from his previous, memorable, comedic turns. But the novelty of it wears thin pretty quickly.

“I happen to be a litigious individual.” Plus, he’s surrounded by despicable people and, as the story requires, continual ugliness, particularly when gangsters attempt to recover lost, lent funds. From a shady partner (LaKeith Stanfield) to a mistress/employee (Julia Fox) to an understandably bitter wife (Idina Menzel) to uncaring children, Howard has alienated everyone in his life who should be on his side, leaving him utterly alone with the violent consequences of dealing with underworld brutes (and being unwaveringly selfish). It doesn’t help that the bulk of the script is cursing, physical fighting, verbal sparring, and all sorts of disordered episodes of untethered tempers – unfolding at loud, screechy volumes. There’s nothing even remotely pleasant or absorbing about this tumultuous yarn, and certainly nothing that Sandler’s uncommon persona can save; it’s an overlong, uninteresting, badly arranged (the overly contrived scenarios are astounding), extremely disagreeable downfall that only gets worse as it goes along. At least there’s a curious irony in the opening scene transition, which moves from the mesmerizing colors of the precious stone to the slimy caverns of Howard’s large intestine.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10