A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley


UNCUT GEMS” (Rated R) Though not lacking for dramatic roles in his cinematic career, Adam Sandler is well-established as a comedic presence, often in the guise of the man-child goofball in characters like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.

Uncut Gems” allows Sandler to shine in the serious role of Howard Ratner, owner of a jewelry store in New York’s fabled Diamond District. Addicted to gambling, Howard leads a messy, complicated life at work and on the home front. His marriage to Dinah (Idina Menzel) is crumbling due to his infidelity and heavy gambling losses. He’s estranged from his own children. His assistant Julia (Julia Fox) is also his mistress who lives in his pied-a-terre in Manhattan.

While his personal life is in shambles, things are even worse for his cavalier attitude about high stakes betting on sporting events. In debt to bookies, Howard is constantly working a scam to hold at bay unsavory characters owed money. In possession of a large rock from an Ethiopian mine that is embedded with sparkling opals, Howard claims it is worth millions and intends to sell the rock at an auction to reap a huge payday that would allow him to indulge his gambling obsession.

Vulgar and strident, Sandler’s Howard looks the part of a hustler with his goatee, designer glasses, and a leather jacket. He’s constantly yelling, often profanely, at thugs trying to collect the gambling debts and even his own staff and family. His compulsive gambling is so reckless and desperate that he ends up deep in debt to his unforgiving brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian) who turns loose his violent thugs.

Howard’s business associate Demand (LaKeith Stanfield) is not immune to the verbal barbs, even after he brings in basketball superstar Kevin Garnett (playing himself) who takes a great interest in the opal-studded stone, believing it has some magical powers.

Garnett loans his Boston Celtics championship ring to Howard in exchange for the use of the stone as a lucky talisman for his next game. After upping his gameplay, Garnett decides he must own the stone and Howard is more than willing to sell it. However, knowing that the stone must go for a price far beyond its appraised value, Howard gets deeper into trouble while employing unethical tactics to push the sale.

Uncut Gems” is a brilliant showcase for Adam Sandler’s gritty performance as a hustler and gambler in need of impulse control so that his life would not be a complete train wreck.


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