REVIEW: ‘Uncut Gems’ is an unrelenting experience

Adrenaline. Anxiety. Intense. All of these words are accurate when describing “Uncut Gems.

Adam Sandler stars as Howard Ratner in this high octane film about gambling, crime, addiction and, to an extent, survival. Howard operates a jewelry store in New York City and lives life a mile a minute. On top of his business, where he often meets with big spenders like athletes, Howard is also addicted to gambling, and is constantly making bets, and side bets for that matter.

His actions haven’t made people too happy, though. His dealings have put tremendous strain on his family and it has also made several people angry, because he owes a lot of money. At the start of the movie he learns that he might just have a big break, though, as he gets a big new gem shipment, as well as a new rich customer in Kevin Garnett.

This is a totally non-bias review, but it certainly didn’t hurt having Kevin Garnett in this movie. While the movie takes place during a time when he was playing for the Boston Celtics, he’s still a Minnesota Timberwolves legend, and so it was really good to see him on screen.

Kevin Garnett powered the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.

However, a person doesn’t have to be a fan of either Boston or Minnesota, (or Brooklyn if we’re counting) to enjoy “Uncut Gems.” That is, if you’re ready for a film that never really lets up.

“Gems” is a relentless movie, characters spout off dialogue with each other constantly, with Howard usually trying to get himself out of a bad situation. It’s loud and in your face from start to finish.

There’s not much breathing room for an audience, but the constant pressure creates an engaging, fast paced experience. Reminiscent of other extremely quick moving movies, such a “Run Lola Run,” “Uncut Gems” is rich with intensity.

Courtesy A24.

Despite the movie going along so quick, though, it still takes time to dig into Howard’s life. The film is a day-in-the-life character study and an audience gets a lot of insight into how Howard’s mind works.

However, when all is said and done, the film doesn’t seem to mean much. The movie features Howard jumping through hoops just to stay one step ahead, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t have much to say. It certainly touches on addiction, and the lengths it can push someone to, but the movie is lacking in any reflection for its main character and there’s not much subtext at work here.

The film still works on a lot of levels, though, especially when it comes to its acting. Adam Sandler is fantastic as Howard, perfectly portraying the character’s hyper-active brain and his never-ending energy. The character isn’t exactly likable, but his constant dealings to keep himself a step ahead is exciting to watch. Sandler makes a lot of this work.

The supporting cast, including Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield and Kevin Garnett, are all strong here, too. Garnett of course is playing himself and has a main career as an athlete, while “Gems” is Fox’s first feature film performance, yet they both do exceptional work here.

A person’s enjoyment of “Uncut Gems” will undoubtedly vary. The film’s non-stop dialogue and quick moving story may not be for every audience. However, the craftsmanship is here for sure. The film can feel somewhat shallow as a whole, but it’s still an exciting ride for viewers with some really good acting. 4 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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