LFF 2019 ‘Uncut Gems’ Review: A Nightmarish Spiral into Chaos

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a Jewish jewellery shop owner with a gambling addiction and a short temper. As he comes into possession of a valuable Ethiopian opal. Determined to use the opal to finally make a big score, he enters into a series of risky deals with some dangerous characters. Once the deals start going wrong and he finds himself owing more and more people, the noose tightens around Ratner’s neck.

Ratner has no interest in the value of anything. He gains and loses money seemingly without interest and although he is initially excited by the mystical rock, it is primary a means to an end. What he really wants is to prove himself and to finally win against those he feels have underestimated him. Triumph over his perceived enemies is all that matters. It’s an absorbing performance from Sandler, which fully utilises his intense energy.

The story is therefore one of unchecked toxic masculinity. Ratner is an aggressive and erratic presence who storms from one moment to the next, always lying, always demanding just a little more slack that he can use to get ahead. Everyone around him seems intent on getting away from him and finding just a little breathing space. Consequently it’s a film full of malice and frustration.

The style of the film is one of relentless motion and noise. Everyone talks over each other, desperate to be heard but stubbornly resistant to actually listening to anyone. It creates a maddening momentum that feels suffocating. The camera stays close the actors and the

Josh and Benny Safdie’s new film is a truly mesmerising descent into the madness of a man determined to clash with everyone around him. It’s utterly compelling to see Ratner push his luck further and further as the risks grow more dire.

Four Stars

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