Adam Sandler is a good actor.
The problem with Sandler's career is there has been so many films where it seems like he is just coasting by that we sometimes forget how good he can be.
His talent is on full display in "Uncut Gems" - a tense, high-wire act from from Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie that is a ball of intense chaotic energy.
The chaos is needed to capture Sandler's rather chaotic character - Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler who always seems to be on the edge of having his entire world collapse. Howard is barely able to stay one step ahead of his bookies. His home life is also a mess, with Howard estranged from his wife (Idina Menzel), living with a younger woman (Julia Fox) and barely there as a dad for his children.
After a chance meeting with NBA superstar Kevin Garnett, Howard comes up with a plan that he thinks will fix everything - wagering his future on a recent acquisition that he plans on using to help finance a series of debts that will finally get him out of the red for good.
But, like everything else in Howard's life, nothing goes as plan - forcing Howard to scramble for survival.
Like their previous film "Good Time" the Safdie brothers have taken a rather unlikable character and putting him on a roller coaster that the audience is allowed to experience firsthand. The tension is there from the opening scene and doesn't let up throughout the film's 135 minute run time, with the Safdies constantly bombarding the audience with the same kind of frenzy that Howard is experiencing it.
None of this would work if Sandler wasn't up to the challenge. He shows he is more than capable of engulfing this character, in a performance that rivals some of his best work (a scene with Garnett where he explains why he gambles is as good as any individual scene in any film this year).
This is the Sandler I wish we would see more of, an actor willing to go outside his comfort zone and take chances.
He clearly takes the chance here, rewarding the audience with an uneasy character study that is definitely one of the cinematic gems of the holiday season.