Uncut Gems Movie Review: The Safdie Brothers Crown Themselves with Adam Sandler Sports Thriller

Uncut Gems Stars Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett and is Directed by the Safdie Brothers

Review: Uncut Gems compounds tension about as well as any movie made in the 2010s. Josh and Benny Safdie announce themselves as filmmakers to keep an eye on moving forward with this grisly thriller set in the world of high stakes sports gambling. Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett co-star, along with a supporting cast for the ages.

adam sandler uncut gems film 2019
Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems (2019)

Having now seen Uncut Gems a handful of times since its release back in 2019, I find it even more undeniably brilliant and squeamish. It grows in my estimation with each viewing, not unlike their previous movies that feel similarly relevant when documenting the rise of Josh and Benny Safdie from guerilla style directors to two increasingly important figures for the next era of filmmaking.

And the Safdie brothers will be the first to tell you about their growing number of influences, from Robert Bresson to John Cassavetes, but the duo interprets these greats about as well as anyone working today. They convey similar feelings of the walls closing in that their predecessors do, but they’re funneled through this idiosyncratic, psychotic world that could only be conceived of if you’ve grown up in an environment similar, or have a deep understanding of the world these characters come from.

Daddy Longlegs, Heaven Knows What, and Good Time (as well as a flurry of short films and documentaries) predated the making of Uncut Gems, and their 2019 movie feels like a summation of the stylistic choices and sensibilities that they brought to the table prior. That manic intensity and unregulated worldview of Howard Ratner’s (Adam Sandler) obsession with both material items and high stakes gambling compound with each passing scene, as his life deteriorates around him and he just can’t seem to see the bigger picture.

Sandler brings forth the performance of his career as he never holds back as Howard Ratner. In retrospect, his aggressive delivery and angry approach to character seems like the perfect fit for Ratner, but it felt like a significant career move at the time. Sandler had portrayed similar dramatic roles with lead characters in Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories, but never something this unapologetically upsetting and engrossing.

New Movie Reviews from Cinephile Corner

Which is why Uncut Gems has to end the way that it does. Howard Ratner has to repent for his sins. For a movie openly reminding you of the religious motifs and implications scene after scene, Ratner avoids every chance to make amends with his wrongdoings until his time is up. It’s a poetic story from the Safdie brothers, even if it’s set in the world of sports gambling and features highly unlikeable characters – and Kevin Garnett.

In 2019, I remember being a heavy supporter of Uncut Gems, but I felt like it was getting lost in the shuffle as that year consisted of many of the great movies by legendary directors this century (Parasite, The Irishman, Marriage Story – the list goes on). Sandler and Garnett were both snubbed at many of the big awards ceremonies for this year, and I think we’d take a do-over if given the chance. Sandler’s performance is the kind of performance the Academy Awards voting body is dying to give Best Actor to every year – a career achievement award to someone making a drastic stylistic change.

Word is out there that Josh Safdie is prepping to direct Adam Sandler’s next stand-up comedy show for Netflix, as well as a movie set in the world of sports memorabilia. It’s been a while since we’ve had new material from the Safdie brothers, apart from Benny’s credits alongside Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone in The Curse, and I think Uncut Gems will only grow in popularity and historical context the further we get from it and dive deeper into the careers of its promising young directors.


Genre: Crime, Drama, Sports, Thriller

Watch Uncut Gems on Netflix and VOD here

Join our newsletter

Uncut Gems Movie Cast and Credits

uncut gems movie 2019


Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner

Kevin Garnett as Self

LaKeith Stanfield as Demany

Julia Fox as Julia De Flore

Idina Menzel as Dinah Ratner

Eric Bogosian as Arno Moradian

Judd Hirsch as Gooey

Keith William Richards as Phil

Mike Francesa as Gary

The Weeknd as Self


Director: Josh SafdieBenny Safdie

Writers: Josh SafdieBenny SafdieRonald Bronstein

Cinematography: Darius Khondji

Editors: Benny SafdieRonald Bronstein

Composer: Daniel Lopatin

Reviews for Films like Uncut Gems (2019)