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Even without an Oscar nomination, Adam Sandler is on fire in ‘Uncut Gems’

Adam Sandler in the movie ‘Uncut Gems’
Adam Sandler in the movie “Uncut Gems.”
(A24)

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.


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