Uncut Gems Review

* * * * 1/2

Adam Sandler plays a Manhattan jeweller with a fondness for gambling that gets him in some trouble. That’s all you need to know, except to see this movie, the Safdie Brothers’ fourth, and feel the incredible rush.

This film is amazing, the logical and pure synthesis of the Safdie Brothers style, distilled to perfection. All the cast are incredible. Julia Fox, in her first role, is superb. Sandler is superb. All the grimy sleazoids, the nightclub homies, and the sports stars playing themselves are superb. Eric Bogosian is superb. And, once again, the Safdies have found all manner of non-actors and trusted them with big roles (such as Fox); all are superb.

Besides being a thoroughly successful experiment in relentless suspense and tension, it represents amazing storytelling. Every character, no matter how minor, seethes with inner life (case in point: the nice guy in the casino; you’ll see what I mean when you meet him). The dialogue is original, vibrant, startling and unique. The milieu is beyond evocative and fuelled by integrity, the camerawork is energetic and artful, the score (typically for the Safdies) wondrous strange, and the pacing magnificent. One of 2019’s best. It will make you grateful you don’t want any of the things the people in the film want, unless you do, in which case it may just get you to re-evaluate your life.

PS: John Amos? What a bonkers detail.

Good Time


* * * * 

Good Time, the new NYC docu-guerrilla-verite slice of gritty NYC urbanism from brothers Josh and Ben Safdie, is a good time. It’s intriguing, bold, exciting, fresh and urgent.

Robert Pattinson – quite possibly doing the best work of his career – plays a Queens criminal with drive and instinct but perhaps not a massive eye for the big picture (nor a huge intellect). When a heist involving him and his intellectually challenged brother doesn’t go quite according to plan, it sets him off on an overnight urban adventure. Pattinson contacted the Safdie brothers after seeing their fantastic 2015 gritty heroin drama Heaven Knows What – seek it out, it’s just terrific – and they wrote the script for him.

NPmgYZu_The Safdies are fascinating filmmakers, using long lenses and employing a “Street Casting” crew member to shoot many of their New York scenes amongst actual, and sometimes unknowing, New Yorkers from hidden, far away positions, and real people doing their real jobs – or otherwise, such as the real prisoners in the film. It’s cool that Pattinson not only decided to work with them but to work in this style, which must take some guts, especially when you’re a British world-famous heart-throb hiding behind a goatee, bleached hair and a Queens accent. Like his Twilight castmate Kristen Stewart and Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, Pattinson, obviously the possessor of a gargantuan bank account, now works for the challenge, not the money. This role would have been a big one, and he pulls it off extremely well.

The first twenty minutes or so of this film are staggering, to the point that I became thrillingly expectant of having the best cinema experience of 2017. Unfortunately, the urgent intense excitement of that slick first act doesn’t sustain, and as the story enters nighttime the film slows a little and grows murkier, introducing a major new character (played by Buddy Duress, one of the actual street denizens from Heaven Knows What, and basically only an actor when called upon by the Safdies) who, despite the authenticity of the performer, feels a little inauthentic to the story.

In the main, however, this is urgent, mesmerizing, extremely exciting “pure cinema”, and totally worth your twenty bucks and one hundred and one minutes. The original score, by Oneohtrix Point Never, is creepy, evocative and the best of the year thus far. Recommended.