Eppler: 'Uncut Gems' a beauty of a crime thriller

Eppler: 'Uncut Gems' a beauty of a crime thriller

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"Uncut Gems" is an intense, sweaty-palmed pulse-pounder - a raw, coarse movie that pulls you in like a choke-hold. 

Don't expect Adam Sandler's usual brand of mail-it-in comedy here. He's sensational as Howard Ratner, a jeweler in New York's Diamond District. He's a helpless gambler and unapologetic hustler always looking for the next big score.Ironically, we meet Howard getting a colonoscopy as he's worried about a family history of illness, but he regularly puts his life in danger owing money to scary people. 
 
"Uncut Gems" is primarily a movie about addiction. We follow Howard over a couple days keeping many plates spinning trying to keep his head out of the noose he's made for himself. But no win will ever be enough, and there's no low he won't sink to chasing the next one. 
 
 

Sandler deserves a Best Actor Oscar nomination and maybe even the win. He's been good in dramas before, but he disappears into this role. It's a hard character to like, but a performance easy to love. 

There's more solid work from Idina Menzel as Howard's no-nonsense wife, the blossoming LaKieth Stanfield as his business partner, and Kevin Garnett as, well, Kevin Garnett kinda.

"Uncut Gems" is like a stress test for the audience. Benny and Josh Safdie, the brothers who wrote and directed, understand how to use camera movement, performance, and writing to build unbearable tension. Characters yell and talk over each other, the camera cuts around quickly, and by the end you're hoping theater staff is handing out Xanax as the end credits roll.
 
It's one of the year's best and most memorable movies. 
 
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 1/2
 

RATING SCALE

* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful - The worst, an insult to movies

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