Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie, US) — Special Presentations

By Ella Kemp

Josh and Benny Safdie chip away at the diamond-hard veneer of greed with Uncut Gems, their newest New York thriller that offers up a nightmare vision of a business transaction gone awry. Adam Sandler is at once ferocious and utterly numb-skulled as Howard Ratner, a Jewish jeweller with no self-awareness but an endless ambition to succeed: to earn more, to aim higher, and, to employ a basketball metaphor for this NBA-centric movie, to shoot his best shot every time. A tribal, frenetic score by Daniel Lopatin (a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never) creates a claustrophobic neuroticism synced to the ticking time bomb that is Howard’s life, as his actions initiate a chain reaction of daring, stupid events that the Safdies only let explode at the most shocking, salient moments. The familiar but still effective beats of the crime thriller are all hit here, deployed one after the other with taut violence and a sense of wit that always feels electric. Happy endings are virtually unthinkable in a movie as fearless as this, but Uncut Gems isn’t just a sadistic portrait of mistakes and punishment. There’s a curiosity to dig deeper behind all that glitters; deep inside the gem, far under the skin.