Yet, when I saw how much praise he’d earned for “Uncut Gems,” even winning a Film Independent Spirit Award for his lead role, I figured this one might be worth checking out. Then I flipped back the other way when I read that it was written and directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, whose 2017 movie “Good Time” I did not enjoy. But for some reason, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to watch their latest effort — and, boy, was I disappointed.
Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a completely unlikeable jeweler in New York’s diamond district who has a major sports gambling problem. He has a wife who’s fed up with him (Idina Menzel) and a mistress who works for him (Julie Fox). Bookies are after him for sums in the five and six figures, but he tries to keep them at bay by hustling, lying, running, and talking. Still, they keep after him with the kind of big, tough guys you don’t want keeping after you.
When he gets his hands on a rare Ethiopian gem, he plots to sell it for millions if he can find the right sucker. When NBA big shot Kevin Garnett (playing himself) comes into the store looking for something special, Ratner is star-struck and convinced his troubles are over. But of course, they’re not. He lets Garnett borrow the gem as a good-luck charm for a game that night at Madison Square Garden, and ends up chasing it down to get it back — while trying not to get the snot beat out of him by the bookies’ henchmen. Frankly, I let my dislike of Sandler merge with my scorn for his character, to the point where I was rooting for the tough guys.
The good news about “Uncut Gems” is that it’s not a comedy, so Sandler can’t rely on his usual immature schtick. The bad news is that, without that safety net, his only apparent acting option is to deliver every line at top volume. So does most of the rest of the cast. I can’t remember hearing so much shouting in every scene of a movie — to the point where it overwhelms the plot and gives us no one to root for, least of all Sandler’s character.
Like the Safdies’ previous outing, I give “Uncut Gems” a 4 out of 10. And I renew my vow to never see another Adam Sandler movie.