“Uncut Gems” treats audience to signature Safdie Brothers thriller

Noah Levine

If audiences have ever wanted to see Adam Sandler fight against a famous R&B singer in the middle of the VIP room of a club, now is the time. 

“Uncut Gems” is another film from directing duo the Safdie Brothers (“Good Time”). The film follows a New York City jeweler as he struggles to balance the intensity of his business while being there for his wife and kids. Adam Sandler stars as the persistent Howard Ratner in this beautifully shot, high-stakes thriller that keeps its finger on the trigger. 

Sandler is the beating heart to this neo-noir epic. His unpredictable, persistent and pompous portrayal as Ratner consistently entices the audience. He absolutely steals every scene he is in, twisting Adam Sandler’s comedic image into something more scandalous and provocative. Despite his erroneous and consequential decisions, audiences will still feel compelled to side with Howard, longing for him to come out on top. It’s the uncanny pairing of Sandler with such a morally questionable character that lends itself to his likeability. 

LaKeith Steinfald accompanies Sandler as Demany, Ratner’s right-hand man when it comes to organizing high-profile deals. Steinfald infuses an intense, all-business personality into Demany, constantly pushing up against Howard’s desire for fame and fortune. He has a better grasp on reality than Ratner and constantly tries to keep him in check. Idina Menzel is appropriately fierce as Howard’s unfairly treated wife Dinah, and Julia Fox steals the screen with seductive quirk as Howard’s gold-digging mistress. 

The cinematography, set design, and score all contribute to the unnerving modern landscape of upper-class New York City. Tightly-framed shots, combined with continuous takes, create an intense and heightened visual representation of Howard’s endless paranoia. The bright unfiltered lighting of Howard’s shop contrasts with dark neon party environments that harbor potential clients, creating a juxtaposition between the business and networking side of Ratner’s lifestyle. The score is infused with techno flare, matching the fast-paced tension consuming the entire film. 

The film is a character study, approaching the urban landscape through Howard’s perspective. Audiences follow the trajectory of his character from his low points to his highs. The dizzying web of angered business partners creates a tense atmosphere that continually grows to consume the world and main plot of the film. For every poor decision Howard makes, something positive comes up to keep him pushing forward. It’s an unpredictable slope of intensity that sees Ratner getting caught in the loop of such celebrities as Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd. 

Howard’s encounters with unsatisfied customers range from terrifying to comedic with one instance resulting in him being left naked in a car trunk. The Safdie brothers do not hold back, often including scenes with visceral violence and discomforting gore, thus casting a bitter reality over the events of the film. Overall, Howard’s life is like a race car that refuses to stop, taking significant damage every time it passes another lap.  

Overall, “Uncut Gems” is another beautifully shot, acted and directed action thriller from the directing duo. With this film, the Safdie brothers have cemented themselves as prominent figures in the industry, consistently offering an extraordinary and well-tailored moviegoing experience. 

4.5 Adam Sandler saying “KG’s” out of 5