The ending is definitely one worth debating and discussing.
Uncut Gems has soared onto UK screens but the ending may be less divisive once explained.
Has Adam Sandler ever been this good!?
Absolutely not. The 53-year-old American actor is widely known for his wealth of comedic roles. However, he has proven in the past that his talents surpass far beyond just making people laugh. He turned in particularly incredible performances across such efforts as Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).
In Uncut Gems, he sculpts a career-crowning performance as New York jeweller Howard Ratner as he navigates a series of high-stakes risks.
You’ll struggle to peel your eyes away from him for even a second, which is a testament not only to his craft but that of the Safdie brothers’ directorial chops.
The Safdie brothers score big!
Arguably, the Safdie brothers are the most exciting filmmakers working today.
The brothers and the directorial duo delivered one of the boldest efforts of the 2010s with 2014’s Heaven Knows What – a tale of heartbreaking addiction and toxic romance.
Although it captured the attention of critics and cinephile audiences, its appeal was limited to a degree thanks to some of its more extreme elements. The same cannot be said of their breakout follow-up feature, 2017’s Good Time. The film announced Robert Pattinson – in a stellar lead role – as one of the finest actors of his generation, and when Adam Sandler was announced for Uncut Gems, audiences expected to witness greatness on that very same scale.
They got it.
Uncut Gems ending: “This is how I win”
So, let’s talk about the ending…
From the very start, it’s established that Arno – a loan-shark later revealed as his brother-in-law – wants his money from Howard (Sandler) and quick.
In the last act, he finally sells the gem to basketballer Kevin Garnett and has the money to pay off Arno and his associates who conveniently happen to be right there on the premises. Just as things look wrapped up, our impulsive protagonist decides to hand the money over to Julia out the window, instructing her to bet the money on a big game.
Arno and his men arrive to collect but it’s soon confirmed that the money isn’t with Howard and he locks them in the shop’s mantrap. Forced to watch the tense basketball game with him, they appear shocked that Howard was right, and indeed, his big risk has finally paid off. He lets them out, but one of Arno’s men – Phil – shoots Howard and Arno dead.
Still thinking about the ending of uncut gems pic.twitter.com/IAFcZP3BQq— benjamin. (@chetta_bob) January 6, 2020
Uncut Gems ending explained
Why doesn’t Howard pay the men back, you may ask?
It’s established throughout the entire film that Howard is an enslaved gambler and utterly addicted to risk. Just as things look up, he jeopardises things with another risk to try and score more. It’s less about the money and more about the thrill.
The real threat – Arno’s men – has been with him for the whole narrative, but his addiction blinds him to the fact that he has been given one too many warnings.
So, it comes down to this: Why did they shoot him if he won? While they’re all watching the game, we know that Howard is dead if his bet doesn’t pay off, but it does – that’s why the murder is such a shock. However, it’s about respect and ego. Howard has made a complete fool of these men, damaging their reputation and esteem.
Sure, he can get back their money, but look at what he did to them in order to get it. This man will never be satisfied, and there’s the added sense that the money won will go straight back into another one of his crazy schemes. If he was to survive, it would almost justify and validate his totally foolish behaviour, but instead – just like Connie (Robert Pattinson) in Good Time – he is made an example of, of sorts.
In the end, we zoom into Howard’s wound and he is juxtaposed with the rare opal, suggesting that he too is an uncut gem. These are both fascinating, but just like the gem (the man’s injured leg in the opening), Howard brings about destruction. He’s a ticking time bomb, and after the stunts he pulls, there’s no way he’d have been able to carry on ticking.
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