Yes, you read that right. Adam Sandler has a new movie streaming now on Netflix and it is a truly thrilling and visceral experience.
There are two types of Adam Sandler fans in the world.
The first type enjoys his broad comedies – the crasser the better, the more Kevin James and Rob Schneider on screen, the better. If Sandler is off in some sunny location, goofing around with his mates and calls it a movie, woo!
If Sandler is starring and producing, then their bums are on the seats.
The second type of Sandler fan is extremely selective. They think his early stand-up work is good, they might even cop to liking Happy Gilmore (but maybe wouldn’t if they saw it again). But what they really like is when Sandler is in other people’s movies.
They cite Punch-Drunk Love, a Paul Thomas Anderson movie from 2002. They might cite The Meyerowitz Stories, a Noah Baumbach movie from 2017.
The point is, for the second type of Sandler fans, when he’s in other people’s movies, and when he has little involvement in the creative development of those films, that’s when he’s at his best.
Which makes the Sandler you see in Uncut Gems a marriage of the two camps. It’s a very Sandler performance – intense, loud and big. But in a movie that is so far from a typical Sandler movie.
Uncut Gems is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, indie filmmakers with a track record for challenging thrillers. The Safdies don’t make easy-to-watch, forgettable comedies, they make high-stakes, madcap films that captivate and linger.
Much like the hunk of rock at the centre of Uncut Gems, a thousand-plus carat of black opal which hypnotises, described by Sandler’s character Howard as “you can see the whole universe in there”.
Howard is a dealer in Manhattan’s diamond district, a man with a lot of complications in his life, all of which he’s brought on himself. A problem gambler being chased by his loan shark’s (Eric Bogosian) goons, he’s also juggling between a wife (Idina Menzel) who’s about to leave him and a girlfriend (Julia Fox) whose apartment he’s paying for.
When the black opal, wrapped inside a fish, shows up, Howard is mesmerised by its beauty but also by how it’s going to get him out of debt. So, he probably shouldn’t agree, however reluctantly, to lend it out to legendary NBA player Kevin Garnett (playing himself) for good luck.
Your first type of Sandler fan might be surprised by the kind of movie they’ve signed up to with Uncut Gems, but hopefully they’ll stick around because the propulsive thrills are so visceral, it’s an experience they won’t find in Grown Ups 3 (god help us if that actually eventuates).
Uncut Gems is a sensational movie – from the first minute to the end, it won’t let up. There is no reprieve from the tension that’s been stretched so tight you’re certain it’s going to snap. But the Safdies are so adept at maintaining that anxiety, you have to just sit back and marvel.
The Safdies' Good Time achieved a similar vibe, and that was an excellent film – and a highlight of Robert Pattinson’s career.
Sandler is on excellent form and gives a performance with so much momentum, chaos and power, it once again begs why he doesn’t do this kind of thing more often.
Anchored around that key Sandler performance, Uncut Gems works on every level – the dazzling script, the cinematography with its gritty aesthetic and the production design which drops the audience into this gauche world.
But the thing that elevates it above all else is the frenetic energy that infuses every scene, yet calibrated so perfectly so that it stays, barely, on the right side of frustrating. There’s nothing more thrilling than that.