Movie Review: Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler has probably had one of the most remarkable careers in the entire history of the movie industry. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the movies he has made as an actor, director and writer have been panned by all the critics and many are considered some of the worst movies ever made, he has been able to get funding to make many more bad movies in his career, while amassing a huge fortune of 420 million dollars. There is no other profession in the world that could reward anyone who has made this many bad movies with this amount of money.

In 2002 Sandler made a movie called “Punch Drunk Love”, that was not only a very good movie, but proved that Adam Sandler can be an outstanding actor. I thought Punch Drunk Love was the turning point in Sandler’s career, turning the corner into making high quality movies demonstrating his acting ability. Unfortunately, the opposite happened and Sandler made several more bad movies including, Jack and Jill, Just Go with It, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Pixels. Hopefully this time around with his outstanding performance in “Uncut Gems”, Sandler will make more movies like this one that prove conclusively that in the right role, he can be a great actor.

I have only seen one other movie that shows the tragic and pathetic life of a compulsive gambler like Uncut Gems does. “The Gambler”, released in 2014 with Mark Wahlberg did a very good job at showing the desperation of a person insanely gambling away their life because the high of winning and even losing becomes greater than their intrinsic human desire to survive. Uncut Gems raises the bar about a story involving compulsive gambling to a much higher level and what happens in this movie is insane, fast paced, desperate and pathetic, with acting that is about as real as I have ever seen.

Howard Ratner, played by Sandler is the owner of a jewelry shop in a New York City high rise and on the side he places what are called “parlay” bets on sporting events that are bets on a combination of events during a sporting event, for this story Basketball. Ratner bets that basketball player Kevin Garnet, who plays himself in this film, will score a certain number of points, rebounds, his team will win the opening tip and his team will win. During this insane story, Ratner is constantly trying to pay off one gambling debt and at the same time opening up another one, all the while running for his life while one thug or several are trying to beat him up or even kill him. Ratner is married with a son and a daughter but despite his responsibilities as a husband and a father, he takes risk after risk placing insane bets that if he loses his entire life could be over in an instant. The high, so perfectly defined in this excellent film, is all about the fear of life ending disaster and the extreme euphoria of winning big. There is one scene in this movie where Kevin Garnet and his friends are trying to get into Ratner’s Jewelry store, but the security door is stuck. What follows are about 10 different and eventually desperate attempts to get the door opened, a scene that is greatly symbolic of the frustrating, desperate and crazy life of Ratner himself.

The high level of tension, and insane situations in this film is matched by the great acting by the entire cast and especially Sander, who even has a shot at winning an Academy Award for his performance in this movie, on a par with Joaquin Phoenix in Joker – for both the intensity and desperation. It would be hugely ironic to see Adam Sandler win an Academy award considering how many of his movies and performances have been trashed for so many years.  

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Uncut Gems are an extremely high 93% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this film as one of the very best of 2019. Congratulations to Adam Sandler who proved once again, that he can be a great actor in the right role.

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