By Sally Campbell
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Uncut Gems

This article is over 1 years, 11 months old
Issue 454

There is a moment about half way through this panic-inducing film, where Howard Ratner’s (Adam Sandler) soon-to-be-ex-wife stares him in the face coldly and says, “I think you’re the most annoying person on the planet. I hate being with you, I hate looking at you, and if I had my way, I would never see you again.”

It’s funny because it takes you out of the film for a moment, to acknowledge that this is, indeed, how you normally feel about Adam Sandler.

But his performance in this relentlessly stressful tale about a needy, creepy, diamond dealer in New York is spot on.

Ratner is apparently incapable of humiliation or self-awareness. He is always on a mission to make money any way possible — mostly through dodgy dealings and risky sports bets. He sells tacky but expensive jewellery to sports celebrities and hip-hop stars, and he barely stays ahead of the enforcers who are chasing him for debts owed.

The film never stays still; Ratner is constantly on the move, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. His voice is always at a high, screeching pitch, as characters talk and shout over each other. He’s never off his phone or off his feet.

His latest attempt at a big win is a rare black opal that he has illegally imported from Ethiopia. At the start of the film we see the mine — a decidedly unsafe operation run by Chinese businessmen and employing Ethiopian Jews. We see the underhand extraction of the gem to be smuggled to the US, and while Ratner claims to feel an affinity with these faraway black Jews, we also know that his aim is to make a fortune off their labour.

You could almost believe the stone is cursed, if it weren’t for the fact that we can see so clearly that Ratner brings all his suffering on himself.

This is well worth your time on Netflix — just don’t watch it straight before bed.

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