Uncut Gems is a 2019 crime thriller film co-written, co-edited, & directed by the Safdie brothers (Good Time, Daddy Longlegs, & Heaven Knows What). It was co-written by Ronald Bronstein (Good Time, Daddy Longlegs, Frownland, & Heaven Knows What). It was produced by Martin Scorsese (The Grifters, Clockers, Boardwalk Empire, & Vinyl), Scott Rudin (Devs, Inherent Vice, Ex Machina, & No Country for Old Men), & Eli Bush (Moonrise Kingdom, The Newsroom, Annihilation, & Lady Bird). Adam Sandler originally turned down the role & it was offered to Jonah Hill before he changed his mind about the project. Adam Sandler won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for this. The budget was $19 million & it grossed $50 million worldwide at the box office making it the most successful A24 film so far!!!!
In 2010, Ethiopian Jewish miners retrieve a rare black opal from the Welo mine in Africa. In 2012, gambling addict Howard Ratner (played by: Adam Sandler from Punch Drunk Love, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, & Saturday Night Live) runs KMH, a jewelry store in New York’s Diamond District. He struggles to pay off gambling debts including the $100,000 he owes to his loan shark brother-in-law Arno (played by: Eric Bogosian from Talk Radio, Under Siege 2, Special Effects, & Blade: Trinity). His domestic life is split between his estranged wife Dinah (played by: Idina Menzel from Frozen 1/2, Glee, Enchanted, & Rent) & his ambitious girlfriend Julia (played by: Julia Fox from PVT CHAT & Puppet). Howard’s employee Demany (played by: LaKeith Stanfield from Knives Out, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Sorry to Bother You, & Get Out) recruits basketball player Kevin Garnett (played by: himself from the NBA & Blue Chips) to visit KMH to buy something & the Ethiopian opal shows up at the same time. Garnett becomes obsessed with it & wants to hold on to it for luck. Howard pawns the Celtics championship ring Garnett loaned him & places a bet on Garnett playing extraordinarily well in that night’s game.
Howard wins the lucrative bet but he’s ambushed at his daughter’s school play by Arno plus his bodyguards Phil (played by: Keith Williams Richards from Three Deaths) & Nico (played by: Tommy Kominik). Arno stopped his winning bet & leaves Howard embarrassed. Howard is forced to call Dinah for help. Howard tracks down Demany, who is at a nightclub party hosted by The Weeknd (played by: himself). Demany says that Garnett still has the opal, angering Howard. Howard discovers Julia & The Weeknd snorting cocaine together in a bathroom causing a fistfight. Howard is thrown out of the club after the incident. Howard is given a low appraisal for his auction by Anne (played by: Tilda Swinton from Suspiria, Hail, Caesar!, Snowpiercer, & Burn After Reading). He convinces his father-in-law Gooey (played by: Judd Hirsch from Taxi, Independence Day 1/2, Ordinary People, & A Beautiful Mind) to bid on the gem to drive up the price but the plan backfires on him. Garnett ends up buying it for his original offer which is much lower than what Howard expected. As soon as the sale is made, Howard decides to bet all the money on Garnett’s game that night. He has Julia board a helicopter to Mohegan Sun to place the bet for him. He traps Arno, Phil & Nico inside to buy them some time. Can the shady Howard survive one last scam & change his bad luck finally????
Like everyone else, I was very impressed with Good Time from the Safdie brothers so I was very excited when Uncut Gems was announced with comedian Adam Sandler as the lead in a serious role. Adam Sandler did it before in Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish, & Reign Over Me but it was very rare to see the actor take on a more normal role rather than something silly. This is definitely his best performance in his entire career & he proves he can actually act if given the right material. Howard was shady, a loser, & a very unlikable person but somehow Sandler made you feel sorry for him. It has some nice eye candy with Idina Menzel & Julia Fox. Former basketball player Kevin Garnett was better than expected in this but then again he was playing himself. It had a real nice supporting cast that included Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, & LaKeith Stanfield. The screenplay was slick, it from a drama to a thriller towards the end. The twist came out of no where & it actually surprised me, it’s a very powerful finale. I really enjoyed the score for this, it set the tone for the production. Uncut Gem is very entertaining & one of the best from 2019, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation & special feature from Lionsgate! This 1080p (2.39:1) transfer looks stunning on blu ray, I am actually surprised that it didn’t get a 4K release. It really captures that East Coast atmosphere. The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is top notch. The music here is almost like it’s own character & it sounds fantastic. All the dialogue is crystal clear & the intense moments are elevated. It has English SDH & Spanish subtitles. There’s only one extra on the disc but it’s a good one. “Money on the Street: The Making of Uncut Gems” is a little over 30 minutes. It has interviews with directors the Safdie brothers, actors Adam Sandler, Julie Fox, Kevin Garnett, & Idina Menzel. They bring up that they have been trying to make this film for over 10 years. This project was very personal to them. They said they originally reached out to Sandler when it was first written but they had no luck. They mention the original choice for the basketball player was Amar’e Stoudemire. They said they were going to update the script & have it take place now with current NBA all star Joel Embiid but couldn’t make the schedules work so they went with Kevin Garnett. They joke that they hated him because they are life long Knicks fans. Sandler says after seeing a few of their films, he became interested in this project. He brings up that he’s never done a role like this before. They chat about how they put together some of the cast. They talk about the cinematography, locations, shooting schedule, & their experience on this. They talk about working with each other & praise Sandler’s performance, It has a few “Trailers” from A24 & Lionsgate before the film starts. It also has a slipcover, a digital code, & a DVD copy of the release. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!