Review: UNCUT GEMS ‘…shines like a diamond’

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Title: UNCUT GEMS
MPAA Rating: R
Director:  Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, and Judd Hirsch.
Movie length: 2 hours 15 minutes

What it is: A crime thriller starring Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, an unscrupulous jeweller in New York City, always looking for the next big score while balancing his family and business lives – and trying to fend off adversaries at the same time.

UNCUT GEMS movie poster

What I thought: If a movie stars the likes of Adam Sandler, you expect that movie to be a comedy since that’s his bread and butter – UNCUT GEMS, however, is the absolute polar opposite from that. The film is a solid crime thriller that absolutely sparkles and will keep you on the edge of your seat from frame start to frame end.

We’ve seen films with Sandler’s characters being on the back foot before but here the fates are very much against Ratner as things seem to always go wrong for him, and from every corner. I did a bit of reading into the film before going in so I was aware that Adam Sandler was getting Oscar buzz for his role in UNCUT GEMS, and after seeing it for myself, I get why. His portrayal was terrific and unlike anything I’ve ever seen from him before.

The supporting cast is also razor-sharp: Broadway legend Idina Menzel stars as Ratner’s wife, Dinah; Lakeith Stanfield as Demany, a business acquaintance; Kevin Garnett (yes, the NBA player himself!) as one of Ratner’s customers; Eric Bogosian as Amo, an ever-present adversary, and Julia Fox – in her feature film debut, and well-deserving of the praise she’s getting – as Ratner’s mistress. All were all terrific throughout the entire piece.

Julia Fox as Julia from UNCUT GEMS
Julia Fox as Julia from UNCUT GEMS

Returning to that Oscar buzz: with the 2020 award season ramping up soon, I fully expect the movie to get quite a few awards – it has already been nominated for Best Feature, Best Actor (Sandler), and Breakthrough Actor (Fox) at the upcoming Gotham Awards. In addition, it has been nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Male Lead, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing at the Independent Spirit Awards, which once again take place the day before the Oscars are handed out. This is a film that was made to attract silverware – here’s hoping that it attracts the audience it deserves, too.

My grade: A – yup, it’s that good. The dialogue sparkles, the characters shine and the film is tight as a drum. The man can do slapstick type comedy till the cows come home but Adam Sandler shows here, once again, that he has more strings to his bow than he usually demonstrates. Yes, the movie is just over 2 hours long but it moves along briskly – as the year comes to a close, UNCUT GEMS has jumped into my list of one of my favorite movies of 2019, and indeed one of my favorite movies from the long filmography from Sandler.

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