Uncut Gems Review

Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review

Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Stars: Mesfin Lamengo, Suin Zhi Hua-Hilton, Liang Wei-Hei Duncan

The Safdie brothers have officially cemented themselves as masters in adrenaline thrillers. Where as Good Time was a race against the clock, Uncut Gems is a race against human nature, an exercise in maintaining a status quo within our own cosmic desire to be better than. Howard is convincingly manic in his pursuit of gluttony, but it’s a struggle that we can, unfortunately, relate to. A struggle that our capitalist society continually dips us into, and despite whatever desire we have to work against it, we inevitably have to obey. The Safdies capitalise on every opportunity to layer their story with delicate strings tethering together a weave of deceit and destruction.

Some are subtle, like the flippant working conditions of a door, while others are far more overt, like Howard’s personal relationship to some of his greater adversaries. But regardless of what they are, The Safdie’s keep them in constant motion, pulling each string ever so tightly until it becomes entirely taut in a nausea-inducing fever dream of high anxiety. Combine that with relentless performances from Adam Sandler and Julia Fox as well as some of the best film editing and sound design of the decade and Uncut Gems is able to become more than the sum of its parts. Every cut propels the film violently into the next frame as if Howard is a wrecking ball in his own world. Each layered voice echoes into a cacophonous void of near incoherence to further the audience’s stress of misunderstanding.

And what else can I add about the performances that haven’t been said already? I don’t necessarily subscribe myself to the belief that this is undoubtedly Sandler’s best work ever (it would require some rewatching of films I sincerely admire of his from my youth before I could), but his performance here is pivotal in the cataclysmic journey. Will you care about Howard by the end? My guess is no. And perhaps the movie’s greatest downfall is its deliberate distance from an emotional through-line (it becomes inevitable near the halfway point that you may say, “what’s keeping me watching this”), but the rollercoaster is undoubtedly worth the price of admission. 9.3/10

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