Diamond District jeweler and gambling addict Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is desperately trying to get a rare black opal back from famous basketball player Kevin Garnett. The movie that brought mainstream attention to the Safdie brothers was helped by a Netflix collaboration and Sandler’s finest performance to date. He’s perfect as a man working under unbelievable pressure in constantly hostile and fragile environs where fortunes are quickly made and lost with no securities. This is a movie bound to raise your blood pressure, sometimes in a way that’s just stressful rather than genuinely exciting. Well acted, atypical but good electronic score and rough New York locations.
2019-U.S. 135 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Sebastian Bear-McClard, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin. Directed by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie. Screenplay: Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie. Music: Daniel Lopatin. Cinematography: Darius Khondji. Editing: Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie. Cast: Adam Sandler (Howard Ratner), Lakeith Stanfield (Demany), Julia Fox (Julia De Fiore), Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian… Judd Hirsch. Voices of Natasha Lyonne, Tilda Swinton.
Trivia: Co-executive produced by Martin Scorsese. At various points, Harvey Keitel, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jonah Hill were reportedly considered for the lead role. The Weeknd appears in the film.
Last word: “We had a script that was over 160 pages. Howard’s a motormouth! He’s a loudmouth. He has a lot of dialogue. A lot of extended monologues that are constantly interrupted. That is difficult for an actor. Because from a technical standpoint, you have to memorize a lot of monologues with crazy tonal shifts. But [Sandler] wasn’t fazed by that part at all. The movie benefited from ‘100% Fresh’, that 50-city tour he did. He was used to going on stage with three and a half hours of material and shaping and modifying it in the moment, if the crowd’s not into it. The things that were more challenging for him, I think, were the hot and cold elements. And the fact that it was through the lens of realism.” (Benny Safdie, AV Club)