It should be common knowledge by now, but just in case: Adam Sandler has given great dramatic performances before (“Punch-Drunk Love,” “The Meyerowitz Stories”). But he has never been greater, or sweatier, than he is as a master of high-wire hustle-and-bustle in “Uncut Gems,” the latest sustained anxiety attack of a thriller from New York brothers Josh and Benny Safdie.
Sandler’s presence here is its own kind of gamble, and it pays off beautifully. The Safdies have a long-standing affinity for characters who test the audience’s patience, who confront the world with their ambitions and nerve endings exposed. Howard might be a distant Jewish cousin of Robert Pattinson’s reckless crook from “Good Time”; he is both a clearly recognizable figure and, in Sandler’s hands, a twitchy, nervy departure.
In recent studio misfires like “Pixels” or Netflix disposables like “Murder Mystery,” the actor’s familiar shtick has seemed to arise not from a place of gutsy transgressive comedy but from a zone of laziness and complacency, as if he couldn’t even muster enough energy to laugh his way to the bank. “Uncut Gems” reignites Sandler’s fires and then some.