Adam Sandler in a new role in “Uncut Gems”



Adam Sandler stars in “Uncut Gems.” [A24]

William Becker, Staff Writer

Adam Sandler might be one of the most hated actors of all time. Sure, Sandler has starred in some classic comedies and the occasional “dramatic comedy,” with movies like “Punch-Drunk Love,” the career-defining “Billy Madison” that would end up creating the mold for many of his later characters, or even “Happy Gilmore.” In the past decade or so, Sandler is best remembered for making comedies that are almost universally panned by… well, everyone. “Jack and Jill” is often considered one of the worst films ever made, “Grown Ups 2” managed to snag a seven percent on Rotten Tomatoes and “The Ridiculous 6” is one of the few films to get a score of zero on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the man’s 44 films, only nine of them are not ranked as “rotten.”

“Uncut Gems” is one of Sandler’s few attempts to tackle something other than comedy. In initial trailers, it was such a stark contrast to his usual work that it was almost hard to believe Sandler had been given a lead role in a thriller. He plays Howard Ratner, a Jewish jeweler (where the film obviously gets his name) who is addicted to gambling. Ratner is not a very good person; he is deeply in debt and cheating on his wife.

Sandler is the very obvious centerpiece to “Uncut Gems.” The movie is basically a character study of his character. It is very loose in structure and dialogue-heavy, almost in a way that resembles a Tarantino film. It is not a comedy really, but Sandler’s character is so obnoxiously “out-there” that I found myself laughing harder than I have at any of his other films. He is a greedy man-child with an accent that has a knack for getting into trouble. It is so uniquely Sandler in attitude, yet so remarkably different than anything else that the actor has been in. One of the opening shots is from the inside of Sandler’s colon, later he tries to beat up Grammy-award winning singer “The Weeknd” for fondling his mistress, and one moment that got a particularly loud laugh from the audience at my showing was when Sandler’s character got excited about a rare gem and said, “I’m gonna cum.” His performance is nuts and occasionally pretty darn offensive, yet somehow completely and totally entrancing.

Despite the black comedy trickled throughout, the film is mostly about Ratner walking a tight-rope through life and doing almost everything wrong for no reason other than greed. It is a constant downward spiral that is both comedic and a little unsettling. In one of the earlier scenes, tons of random people come into Howard’s shop and start talking over each other for what feels like ages in a long-winded series of conversations. It is different than anything Sandler has ever done and is absolutely a must-watch for both fans and critics of the former Saturday Night Live actor. The cinematography is fluid and cosmic, making the performance even more beautiful and entrancing.

However, it could be argued that the reception of the film might be a bit inflated because Sandler is finally in a good film. By the third act, his antics and accent get physically exhausting to experience, and not in a good way. There starts to be an unnecessary amount of drag that really brings down the pace of the movie. Sandler’s character never really changes and becomes very static, despite it being one of his best performances, which makes the viewer wonder what the point of the whole thing is. “Uncut Gems” is very far from the movie of the year for 2019, but it is certainly one of the most interesting releases and it is absolutely worth watching.