Review: Uncut Gems (15)

Tom Leach reviews the critically acclaimed Safdie brothers' project.

Tom Leach
4th February 2020
Uncut Gems is a shot of adrenaline to the heart. It follows Howie Ratner, a sleazy New York jeweller in the City’s diamond district, dealing with violent loan sharks and the gambling addiction that brought them after him.

The latest Safdie brothers instalment, much like 2017’s Good Time, expertly builds tension to near breaking-point, a tension that doesn’t let up until the final scene.

Sandler as Howie is the undeniable star of this film. His performance is a far cry away from the likes of Jack and Jill (2011), and it’s evident throughout that Sandler is absolutely loving the part he gets to play. His previous experience does not go ignored however, the tense atmosphere being pricked with nervous and awkward moments of genuine comedy. In Uncut Gems he receives the Safdie Brothers treatment Robert Pattinson received with Good Time, showing versatility and skill in an actor often derided by critics.

As well as big names – Sandler, Idina Menzel, the Weeknd – the Safdie Brothers use real life New Yorkers they know from living in the city to add an inimitable layer of realism; many of the bookies, pawnbrokers, and henchmen seen in this film are essentially playing themselves. Most notably, power forward for the Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett, appears as himself in a real-life basketball game that serves as a major plot point.

Underpinning the entire film is the frantic soundtrack, composed by electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin). Delightfully new age with uncompromising use of the Moog synthesiser, the music only adds to the oddball ambience.

Uncut Gems only cements the Safdie brothers as experts of the contemporary crime thriller, building on Good Time. Full of tension and larger-than-life characters, Uncut Gems is a Scorsese film (who in fact is credited as executive producer) updated for the modern age.

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AUTHOR: Tom Leach
Spanish and German student. Interested in cultural studies and left-wing politics globally. Twitter: @tleachleach

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