A24 is a New York City based entertainment company that has been dropping some low key cinematic gems since 2013.
In 2019 A24 released Uncut Gems, a thriller starring Adam Sandler as a gambling addict who runs a jewelry shop in NYC. Let’s take an in depth look. No spoilers of course……
Uncut Gems is the sixth feature film from the Safdie Brothers and it stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner operating in New York City. A good word to describe Howard would be “sordid”. He owes multiple people money. Large amounts of money. His wife Dinah, played by Idina Menzel, hates him. Hates his entire being. One of the reasons why she hates him is because she knows about his girlfriend, Julia, played by newcomer Julia Fox. Whoever cast her knew EXACTLY what they were doing. There is a scene with her in a thong and all I can say is PAWG! If you don’t know what that means then look it up! Some results will come back x rated so BEWARE….. There is another scene involving Julia and The Weeknd, who plays himself in the film, that made me crack up. I’ve been listening to The Weeknd since I heard him feature on a song with Wiz Khalifa back in 2013, so seeing him as the 2012 version of himself in this film was amusing. Julia Fox…..you can slide in my DM. Hehe, kidding. Let me get back on track. Howard is not a good guy. He makes bets with money that he doesn’t have. He irks people to the point where they punch him in the face and make threats against his life. Howard also has this aura about him that draws you in. You want to see what he does. You’re on edge watching his triumphs and failures as he gambles. The Safdies do a great job setting up highly tense situations that leave your stomach knotted up. I really enjoyed how meta this film was. I mentioned The Weeknd playing himself, and NBA star Kevin Garnett (aka KG) also plays himself. In the film Garnett and entourage come into Howard’s shop looking for some high end watches to buy. What results from their initial meeting is interactions between Howard and Garnett concerning an opal Howard bought and gambling on the 2012 Eastern conference semifinals game between the Celtics and the 76ers. I really liked those scenes. I’ve been a fan of KG ever since his early days in the NBA when he was known as “The Kid”. Remember that And1 commercial featuring KG that Styles P flowed over? This movie made me think of that. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adZ2IPdgL6c. Seeing KG play himself and having part of Howard’s story center around an actual NBA game was a cool piece of writing.
Overall I enjoyed Uncut Gems. It didn’t knock me out of my seat but I liked this movie way better than Good Time (barf), the Safdie Bros film that came out in 2017. I have to address some points concerning this film. When Uncut Gems came out last year I saw lots of disdain from critics and casual fans, citing that this movie was just “people yelling and cursing at each other”. Yes the character yell at each other as part of the dialogue. Yes there are tons of f-bombs dropped. To say that’s all this movie is would be an unfair generalization though. I think all the yelling in the movie highlighted the type of atmosphere Howard created when he interacted with other people. Lots of tension. Lots of stress. I also have to contend with this widely held opinion that Adam Sandler was snubbed at the 92nd Academy Awards since he wasn’t nominated for best actor. I liked Sandler as Howard and his performance was on point but I’m not losing any sleep over him not being nominated for an Oscar. With Howard I saw an older Adam Sandler who didn’t really offer anything different or groundbreaking as far as his role playing. A fair amount of people saying Adam Sandler deserved an Oscar makes me think about Denzel Washington winning best actor for Training Day. Solid film and performance, but in my opinion Training Day wasn’t anything special beyond Washington being an antagonist for the first time. I chalk up the Oscar talk to a similar situation with Sandler. Audiences are use to him starring in comedies (and some are highly terrible) so when he starred in a drama/thriller it was a bit shocking. I could be completely wrong about that however I’m sure plenty of people would agree that Sandler’s performance was NOT earth shattering. He did receive a good amount of accolades for playing Howard Ratner, to include an Independent Spirit Award and a National Board of Review Award for male actor. The film is currently A24’s highest grossing movie that was released in the United States. If you ask me, Uncut Gems is worth a watch. I got the dvd on sale at Wal-Mart last week but if you aren’t interested in purchasing the film then Redbox it. If you get anxious quickly, this movie might make your heart beat out your chest…..