Throughout an anxiety-inducing course of events, Howard Ratner is in a chaotic pursuit for the ultimate win
Watching the film that is “Uncut Gems,” it’s evident that directors Josh and Benny Safdie are ahead of their time in terms of filmmaking. Their previous film “Good Time” (starring Robert Pattinson) displays the downfall of a bank robber as his night spirals out of control.
Needless to say, the Safdie brothers know a thing or two about stressful and anxiety-inducing cinema.
At this film’s core, the movie is a case study of a New York jeweler with a dangerous gambling addiction. The year is 2012. Howard Ratner (Sandler) scores an opal from the mines of Ethiopia with his heart set on this rock being his path to clearing the debt under his name.
He tries to please the likes of celebrity athlete Kevin Garnett (the legendary forward as himself) believing that lending it to him will result in good luck being presented ahead.
This is never the case, as Howard digs himself a deeper grave with every decision he makes. But while Howard’s opponents are playing checkers, he’s playing chess. Thinking five, ten or sometimes even twenty steps ahead, he’s making high-stake bets that can either result in the payoff of a lifetime or cost him his life.
Right from the beginning, Ratner is always on the move. He’s either trying to get his money back, please his wife and mistress or not get kidnapped by any of the groups of mobsters that he owes money to. He’s the perfect portrayal of a gambler, and presumably, an unlucky one given his monstrous debt.
The characters, like anyone, have their flaws. Howard’s flaw seems to be that when he is presented with a choice, he is almost guaranteed to make the wrong one.
He views every interaction as a competition with something to be won and drools at the sight of a beautiful prize on the other side. With nothing to gamble, he creates debts that he can’t afford. He thinks that he can catch a break if betting big, but it is certain to push his debt further into the ground.
The film’s climax takes place in Howard’s claustrophobic jewelry store in the Diamond District of Manhattan, where Howard has placed nearly all his money on a single bet that he watches unfold on television.
Sitting on the other side of a locked glass door are the three primary antagonists that are there to collect their money or kill him. The film’s ending is sure to leave every audience member feel just as my roommate and I did: Rattled, shocked and mesmerized at what they just saw.
One notable piece of the film is the editing. The pacing and skittish cuts back and forth build tension like no other. This tension builds beyond belief and is only dialed back when someone dies or gets seriously injured.
The average moviegoer has no idea what is to come next, as the camera simply follows Ratner around town making decisions that the audience regrets for him.
Certainly, this over-the-top stress-inducing piece of cinema won’t be for anyone who wants to sit back and watch passively.
While Howard knows that everything around him is falling apart, he is an optimist like no other. Everything around him is terrifying and mesmerizing as he simply puts a smile on and hopes for the best.
“Uncut Gems” is the most exhilarating movie experience in the past few years, with Adam Sandler delivering a stunning performance unlike any other.