Movie Review: Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems showcases Adam Sandler’s surprisingly serious role in this surreal A24 film


Fourth Estate/Billy Ferguson

I think most anyone around today knows who Adam Sandler is, whether it’s from his early days on “Saturday Night Live” or any of his cult comedy films. Sandler has always been the funny guy, making nonsensical but entertaining movies like “Grown Ups,” “Billy Madison” or “Happy Gilmore.”

We’ve only seen his more serious acting shine through a handful of times, the ones coming to mind being “Click” or “Punch-Drunk Love.” In both those movies, he shows the range of his talent in acting, but it has always been covered by the seemingly endless half-baked comedies he has taken roles in. 

“Uncut Gems” seems like Sandler’s attempt to break from his run of comedic films and show audiences that he can do more than just take a few punches for a laugh. In this movie, he delivers an extremely believable role as Howard Ratner, a con artist jeweler in New York City. 

In typical A24 fashion, “Uncut Gems” has a very indie vibe about it. The film starts off with the viewer floating through a colorful galaxy with very pretty visuals, cutting hard to Sandler by exiting out of some unmentionables. This is where we are first introduced to this supposedly-serious Sandler role. 

The directors, Benny and Josh Safdie, keep the film moving at a very fast pace. It feels as though you’re always going somewhere with Ratner, which is helped by the very fluid camera movement. In one scene, the camera runs next to Ratner while he’s trying to swindle one of his clients while also making a bet on the next basketball game. 

With all of this movement, the story feels rushed at times. While you’re focussing on one thing, the film throws you into the next scene while you’re still reeling. I found myself looking over at my friends to ask if they understood what was going on, only to meet equally confused faces. 

Despite the confusion, the roller coaster of a movie was still very fun to experience. 

Throughout, the scenes are set up very well. The tasteless fluorescent lighting inside Ratner’s sketchy jewelry store, and the nearly stroke-inducing flashing lights in the club where The Weeknd makes an appearance, all help to create powerful visuals for the audience.

Sandler’s acting completely sold the movie for me. It blended just enough of his funny side with serious tones to be perfect for his style. The cocky, charismatic and dim character he plays is just how you’d imagine a sketchy con artist in New York. 

And in some ways, the fast pace and confusing plot actually makes sense for this film. Despite only being set in the span of a short period of time, there are a lot of moving parts. 

Overall, I think Sandler delivers in his goal to star in a role that breaks from his stream of comedies. All the small nuances he creates in “Uncut Gems” push this movie to the top of the list of my favorite A24 films. All we can hope for now is that Sandler gets some recognition for this role in the shape of an acting award.