Writers and Directors Benny and Josh Safdie (“Good Time“, “Daddy Longlegs”) created one of the most anxiety-riddled films I have ever seen, and I loved every minute of this cinematic triumph.
Adam Sandler (“Murder Mystery”, “Punch Drunk Love”) plays gambling-addict Diamond District Jeweller Howard Ratner, who we immediately find out is way over his head when it comes to betting and paying people back.
Ratner orders a Black Opal, a rare artifact from the Ethiopian Jewish mining company, and wants to put it in an auction for what he assumes is a lot of money. This is all part of his plan until his assistant, Demany, Lakeith Stanfield (“Knives Out“, “Atlanta (TV)”), brings in NBA-Star Kevin Garnett, who plays himself in his acting debut.
Once Garnett sees this Opal, he realizes he must have it, and Ratner hesitantly obliges. From the moment he gives Garnett the Opal, the movie officially starts its adrenaline-induced ride and never let’s you breathe.
Sandler turns into the most morally-disgusting character he has ever played, and we should all be thankful to see this transformation. This was a perfect performance after his dominating dramatic turn opposite Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman in “The Meyerowitz Stories” which came out on Netflix last year.
When given the right material, Sandler turns in Award-worthy work (“Punch Drunk Love”, “Reign Over Me”, “Meyerowitz”) and this was no exception. I believe Sandler will be nominated for his first Oscar at the end of January.
Sandler receives help from very good actors and first-timers as well. Garnett receives special attention since this was his first movie, but he brings the right amount of charisma to his scenes with Sandler. The back and forth between the jeweller and basketball player feel like a game of chess that can end in a fight or a hug.
Julia Fox shines brightly in her first movie as Ratner’s girlfriend, Julia shines as a street-smart girl who loves Howard but wants to feel alive in the city. Her performance reminded me of when I saw Margot Robbie the first time in “Wolf of Wall Street”. It was commanding because of her beauty, smarts, and unpredictability.
The Safdie brothers along with Ronald Bronstein (“Good Time“) created something magical with this picture that made me feel afraid to be in Ratner’s world. Not the physical world, but the mental and emotional world. This man had so much but wanted more, so so so so much more! He felt pain for a second since his mind wouldn’t allow him to see the brutality of it all, he only saw winning. He would risk everything for the win.
I was shaken, anxious, sick, angry, confused, and emotionally drained after this film and I couldn’t be happier that this existed.