Uncut Gems Unsettling Cinema

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Uncut Gems Adam Sandler

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a jeweler living the high life at a high cost. He maintains a home with his wife and children, as well as an apartment with his girlfriend, Julia (Julia Fox), but it takes more than selling high-end jewelry to a select clientele. Howard has so many shady irons in the fire that he has to become an expert juggler and proficient liar just to keep his head above water.

Ratner's weakness is gambling, specifically on the NBA. When we meet Ratner, he's already almost a hundred thousand dollars in hock to Arno (Eric Bogosian), who has sent aggressive collection agents to his store to collect from him. Throughout the entirety of the film, Howard finds himself ducking Arno's goons at every turn. What's more frustrating for Arno is that every time Howard gets his hands on actual cash that could be used to pay him, he's parlaying it into another scheme.

When Ratner finally makes big on a bet, Arno has had enough and picks him up himself, and while Ratner claims he can pay him now because he won his gamble, he learns that Arno interceded with the bookie and cancelled the bet, nullifying what Ratner believed was a huge windfall. But that's not the only racket Ratner is running to come up with the dough.

UNCUT GEMS gets its title from a rock Ratner has delivered from Africa that he believes appraises at nearly a million dollars, due to the amount of raw opals embedded in it. When one of his business partners, Demany (DeKeith Stanfield), brings in a high-profile client, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, Ratner lets Garnett hold onto the opal, and then has to scramble to get the rock back in time for auction. But Garnett believes he draws power from the stone, and his performance on the court bears this out when his results go against oddsmakers predictions. So Ratner puts everything on the line for one last gamble -- one on which his life literally depends.

Ratner would have a difficult time with his obsession had the events of UNCUT GEMS taken place today. With the panic over the Coronavirus pandemic, sports betting across the country has been curtailed, as bookmakers have had to postpone, and even cancel, several of their betting odds. That's not just a problem with U.S. sports betting, either, but a global one. In Asia, the betting odds in India for huge events like the IPL and the Euro have also been postponed until the current crisis has passed.

Part BLOOD DIAMOND, part KILLERMAN, UNCUT GEMS is a film that is difficult to sit through because it has so many competing narratives; which also makes it more realistic, as no one person's life is a single event thread. We get a very broad spectrum of Ratner's personality, and share in the frustration he brings others through his selfishness and bad decisions. It's definitely a departure for Sandler, and showcases his acting range, but a tighter job on the editing could have brought this two-hour plus rambler down to something a bit more cohesive and a bit more gripping.

3.5 / 5.0