If you’ve never seen a film by Josh and Benny Safdie before, you’d better prepare yourself: never before have two directors seemed so intent on giving their audience heart attacks.

The Safdies’ signature style has now been well-defined as having a blistering pace and a focus on realistic dialogue. While many got their first taste of this with the Robert Pattinson showcase Good Time in 2017, I found that film muddled and disappointing. While I was intrigued by the formula, the directors seemed to have too much energy for their own good.

Thankfully, these problems have been (mostly) remedied with 2019’s Uncut Gems. The Safdies have, in effect, created an entirely new genre with this film, one that is ostensibly focused its serpentine plot and pacing but in actuality places far more emphasis on fleshing out its characters — and, oh, how fleshed out these characters.

The internet has already had a field day with pictures of star Adam Sandler as jeweler Howard Ratner, perfectly balancing the gaudiness of midtown Manhattan with a certain sense of ephemera to the whole thing. Perhaps the best showcase for Howard, however, is in his interactions with the film’s supporting characters. Idina Menzel gives perhaps the film’s best performance as Howard’s beleaguered wife, while newcomer Julia Fox keeps pace with Sandler as Howard’s mercurial girlfriend and employee. Adding to the film’s massively gonzo energy is Kevin Garnett, playing a version himself obsessed with a high-value Ethiopian opal Howard’s gotten his hands on.

It would be useless to describe the plot of the film here, but Howard’s constant overextension and propensity for stretching the truth puts him in a never-ending sequence of bad situations that get ever more dire as the film goes along. This arc allows the audience to see Howard from a number of different angles, each revealing something new about his character. Nearly every character in the film is some different variety of unsavory, but the Safdies seem to revel in this filth in a way that few directors nowadays have the guts to.

The film is not flawless — it would still be nice if Uncut Gems had a plot that didn’t feel like one minor setpiece after another — but its unstoppable clip keeps things moving at such a pace that it’s hard to notice the blemishes. The film feels like something truly new and groundbreaking in a way few other films do. It may be rough in its execution, but the core of Uncut Gems is hard not to get sucked into fully.

Fans of special features might be a little disappointed here: the only serious meat on offer is a brief “making-of” documentary that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Thankfully the film itself more than makes up for this.

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