Movie Review: 'Uncut Gems'

John Thomas

Howard Rantner’s (Adam Sandler) moral compass is spinning in 360º circles at the speed of a moon rocket. He is a diamond trader of questionable reputation, a husband and father with little interest in being good at either, a compulsive gambler and a passionate lover to his two mistresses. 

One mistress is Julia (Julia Fox), an employee in his jewelry shop and partner in bed. The other mistress is greed. His ambition for the next successful deal or stellar win at gambling is the driving force of his life – doing anything and everything to prevail at either or, with luck, both.

Chaotic and frenetic as his life is, he does manage to keep his eye on the “greed” ball. The second ball in his life, one he also carefully watches is labeled NBA.

The two balls are connected through betting on basketball games and dealing with the famous basketball player Kevin Garnett (played by himself). Kevin finds hidden powers in a rock containing uncut gems Howard has imported from a mine in Nigeria – a rock said to have magical powers and be very rare. Kevin wants it very badly for an upcoming game, but balks at the price Howard is asking. Howard fantasizes the value of the rock with the uncut gems to be in the millions.

Kevin feels he needs the rock to win the game, Howard needs him to win the game. Now it’s time for Howard to scheme, connive, plot and lie.

To satisfy both himself and Kevin, Howard does a lot of running around the Manhattan jewelry district. He dashes from loan shark, to pawn shop, to gem dealers, to hotel rooms and clandestine meetings behind secure doors. He invariably meets members of the dark, criminal underworld. They sometimes appear as his friends, though not always.

It’s game time! Howard feels everything is in place for the win of his life. The satchel full of money he has been able to scrounge has been helicoptered off by mistress Julia to a bookie in a gambling casino. A win for Howard is also a win for her. Kevin is hyped up for the game as he cuddles the magical rock to his bosom in the locker room of the sports stadium. The gangsters who have been following Howard and attempting to collect the laters debts to them, are busy loading bullets.

The stadium spectators are screaming with excitement. Howard’s children are cheering with enthusiasm. Julia is anxiously staring at the casino TV monitors tuned to the game.

Howard is held captive by the events unfolding before his eyes. The gangsters are similarly intensely occupied. Game over. There are lots of happy winners and one inept loser.

Uncut Gems is directed by Benny Safdie (Credits: Daddy Longlegs,  Good Time) and is a “should see” movie that runs 135 minutes.



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