Film Noir is more than a genre, it’s a feeling. After World War Two, you started seeing films, generally considered as ‘B’ films, about darker subjects, losers and femme fatales and doomed lives. They centered as much around greed and lust as love and dreams. The characters could be detectives and criminals but also cowboys and private eyes and as time moved on they could even be astronauts or aliens. Film Noir is a modern day Commedia del’arte with a set of characters and stories to choose from. You could mix and match and make something new but what stays the same is that feeling. That sense of dread even when you think, this time, it will work out. It doesn’t. It can’t. Not for everyone.
Uncut Gems is a modern noir that takes place in present day New York (Circa 2012). It’s relentless and tension filled and never lets you breathe just like it’s lead character, Howard Ratner, played to perfection by Adam Sandler. Co-Written and directed by The Safdie Brothers, along with Ronald Bornstein, they’ve created a manic and brilliant film worthy to be included amongst the best film noirs.
The story is familiar. Howard is a man who is in debt to his brother in law, Arno (Eric Bogosian). He’s having an affair with one of his workers, Julia (Julia Fox) a young sexy party girl. He comes up with a scheme to get an uncut opal from Eithiopa sent to him which he will auction off for a million dollars. Sounds easy. It should have been but Howard makes one mistake after another and he can’t get a break. Howard is the classic film noir anti hero. He is a morally questionable and flawed person, he is on a losing streak, he has a dream, a once in a lifetime shot and the odds are against him. It all plays out wonderfully though your heart may not be able to take it. The end is perfect and the only way it could have or should have ended.
Adam Sandler carries the film on his shoulders and he is more than up to the challenge. The entire cast is great including Idina Menzel, Lakieth Stanfield and The Weekend.
Kevin Garnett gives a solid performance and Julia Fox is dynamic in her first film while Judd Hirsch as Howard’s father in law also gives a fine turn. The film reminded me of the 1950 film noir classic Night and The City directed by Jules Dassin (Brute Force) and starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney (Laura).
This film is not for everyone. It’s too intense for some, I understand. I’m a film noir aficionado so, of course, I’m into the dark tale. But I really loved it! It makes you feel something even if you don’t like how it makes you feel.