"Adam Sandler as you have never seen him before, as Howard Ratner an intense, jittery Manhattan jeweler, first seen from within his rectum as a camera probes his colon. He has polyps, benign or otherwise; a mistress stashed in his Manhattan apartment; kids and a disillusioned wife at home. A natural born hustler, he’s living on the edge and then some, but convinced his latest deal – he’s paid out 100 grand for uncut black opals from Ethiopia on the strength of a YouTube clip – is the big score he’s been chasing his whole life. If only he can string along his many creditors until he can get the stones to auction…
This relatively simple goal is complicated by Howard’s greatest weakness and greatest vice. He is an an attention-seeker and a gambler, and like the driven antiheroes in the two movies of that name (and in the Dostoyevski novel before them) he just can’t resist the urge to get one over on fate. When NBA star Kevin Garnett walks into his showroom to buy a watch, Howard makes the mistake of gifting him a glimpse of the opals. Garnett is so smitten he insists on taking them to tonight’s game as a kind of talisman, and the jeweller figures he can rub that charm into a sizeable payoff… It’s a disastrous misjudgment.
Fans of Abel Ferrari’s Bad Lieutenant will dig how the Safdies dovetail Howard’s careening fortunes with a real-life NBA series from 2012, and the two films share a similar vibe, even if the Lieutenant’s Catholic masochism is very different from Howard’s compulsive need for 50 shades of more: attention, love, respect, oneupmanship, money, call it what you will. Howard is no gangster; he wants to live a good life in the eyes of family and friends. Yet somehow he winds up locked naked in the trunk of his SUV outside his kids’ school play, just one of several tragicomic humiliations he must endure.
Think Martin Scorsese (an executive producer here), James Toback, Karel Reisz, Abel Ferrara… the Safdies don’t look out of place in this company; they are right at home in the discomfort zone. Uncut Gems is a prime slab of concentrated pulp storytelling in 135 New York minutes, gripping and remorseless, and probably the cruellest, funniest joke of Adam Sandler’s career." Tom Charity, Sight & Sound
"It's a performance as live-wire exciting as the one the Safdies got out of Robert Pattinson in Good Time. And the movie itself is exhilarating." AA Dowd, AV Club
"The Safdie brothers start big and fast and dirty and do not stop to take a breath for one single filthy moment." Barry Hertz, Globe and Mail
"Electrifying." Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out