Dog’s Movie House: “Uncut Gems” Energetic But Ugly!

“Uncut Gems” features Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jewler, hustler, and gambling addict near the end of his rope. He seems to owe everyone money, he’s on the outs with his wife (Idina Menzel) and he always seems to be looking for that one big score that will get him out from under. He thinks he’s found that score when he acquires a rare uncut opal that could get him millions of dollars at auction. Unfortunately he’s convinced by his shady partner Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) to loan the stone to NBA superstar Kevin Garnett (playing himself convincingly, if you ask me). This leads to a series of misadventures in which Howard is not only fighting for his future, but for his life as well.

Don’t get me wrong: Sandler is really good as Howard. We’re talking Oscar nom worthy, folks. It’s just that Howard is a sad sack with a very weak moral compass, making it hard to root for. It’s like my brother said after seeing the film: “Sandler manages to be annoying in an entirely original manner.” I don’t know if I’ll go that far in my assessment of Howard as a character, but it’s harder than hell to like him.

The other characters are just as bad, or worse. Howard’s brother in-law Arno (the great Eric Begosian) is the very loan shark Howard owes money to. His bodyguards are hyperviolent thugs. Howard’s wife and daughter hate him, and even his mistress (Julia Fox) is looking to hook up with someone else at various portions of the movie. It’s difficult to put on a morality play without any morals.

That said, the Safdie brothers are filmmakers to watch. They have an energy and a flowing style of camera work that makes the film compulsively watchable. I may not care for the characters but I still want to know where they end up. As writers, at least in this case, the Safdie brothers rely a little too much on profanity in their dialogue. I’m not a prude, but a lot of the swearing (and use of the N-Word) felt a little forced to me.

Still, “Uncut Gems” is worth seeing as it has all sorts of energy and shows a side of the gem business that isn’t seen very often. It also features that bravura Adam Sandler performance. (Jeez, who’d ever though that sentence would ever come out of my mouth?) 3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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