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Film / Uncut Gems

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"You’re taking my money, all over town, placing bets!"
"Is it too late? I’m done. It means nothing. It meant nothing. Please, give me another shot."
Howard Ratner

Uncut Gems is a 2019 crime thriller film directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, written by them and long-time collaborator Ronald Bronstein. The film stars Adam Sandler, with Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, The Weeknd, and Kevin Garnett in supporting roles. The original music for the film was composed by Daniel Lopatin, better known as Oneohtrix Point Never, marking his second score for a Safdies film after Good Time (the music of which was credited to his OPN name).

Taking place in 2012, the film follows Howard Ratner (Sandler), a charismatic New York Diamond District jeweler and gambling addict whose clients are some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the city. When a potential transaction of his goes awry and an old, persistent Loan Shark of his starts swimming straight for him, Howard must make a series of precarious high-stake acts as complications from his family, his creditors, and his clients start to catch up to him in more ways than one.

The film was in the works by the Safdies for more than ten years, primarily due to the lack of financial backing and an attached star. It was released on December 13th, 2019 by distributor A24 in the United States and distributed worldwide by Netflix on January 30th, 2020.

Preview: Trailer

Uncut Gems contains examples of:

  • Adam Westing: The Weeknd insisted on being portrayed as an obnoxious diva, which he says was accurate to his behavior at the time the movie is set.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Arno is clearly shown to be appalled at Howard's death, with himself getting shot by Phil after confronting him on it.
  • All for Nothing: Howard risks everything on one last wager. He manages to sneak the cash to his girlfriend, and his girlfriend evades the thugs to place the bet. He wins big, and his girlfriend gets the money, but it doesn't matter because Phil shoots and kills him moments after his victory.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Subverted – Howard and his family are, like the Safdie brothers themselves, Syrian Jews. However, Howard notes that, in spite of being Jewish, he had no idea about the existence of Ethiopian Jews, many of whom are trapped in Africa mining gems. In reality, any observant Jew would be aware of Ethiopian Jews, though not necessarily the current status of those still in Africa.
  • All-Natural Gem Polish: Subverted, per the title. The gigantic, uncut opal only has a few "windows" that showcase its beauty, and the rest looks like an ordinary rock.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Was Julia about to cheat on Howard with The Weeknd? The Weeknd was definitely making advances, which she was repelling, but flirtatiously. Her resolve did appear to be weakening, but she may have just been trying to close the sale as she claims.
    • The opal ends up being vastly undervalued by the auction house. Howard claims it was vindictive given the last-minute circumstances and if appraised by a third party would still be over $1 million, but when reviewing it by hand a second time, the supernatural color seemed duller, implying that their obsession with the gem made it seem brighter before.
    • Who does Howard prefer, Dinah or Julia? Howard immediately promises to stop seeing Julia if Dinah will agree not to divorce him. However, he seems totally obsessed with Julia and only wants to speak to her after their victory. The most likely answer is that he wanted to keep both of them where they were, but it's still left ambiguous.
  • Animal Motifs: The slimy, greedy, unreliable, lying and unfaithful Howard Ratner is ratlike. In addition to his name, the character has a noticeable overbite produced by giving Adam Sandler a set of fake upper teeth.
  • Anti-Hero: If the film is nothing else, it's the character study of a very flawed protagonist in the greedy, selfish and irresponsible Howard Ratner.
  • Artistic License – History: Zig-zagged. Although the movie accurately depicts the course of the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, and Kevin Garnett's up-and-down performance, the movie also utilizes Blade, a helicopter rental company, as an important plot device, despite Blade only having been created in 2014, and invented out of whole cloth a sports book at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
  • As Himself: Basketball legend Kevin Garnett and R&B star The Weeknd both play themselves, with Garnett, in particular, having a sizable role. (Interestingly, the movie takes place in 2012, when The Weeknd was a darling of the underground as opposed to the pop star he was around the release of the film. He even wears his hair the same as he did in 2012!)
  • Author Appeal:
    • The Safdie Brothers are noted basketball fans, and many of Howard's bets involve basketball. Retired basketball star Kevin Garnett plays himself, and the Safdie brothers were initially resistant to the idea because they're hardcore Knicks fans and Garnett was a legendary Celtic. Howard, being a New Yorker, wears a Knicks championship ring.
    • Howard's Jewish cultural identity (if not his faith) factors heavily into the film and the Safdies are themselves New York Jews.
  • Bastard Understudy: Phil disobeys Arno and murders him in cold blood after his boss freaks out upon Howard's death.
  • Berserk Button: Although pretty much everyone has a Hair-Trigger Temper, Howard's particular button is pushed when Arno sends his goons to intimidate Howard at his daughter's school play. He becomes so enraged that he attacks the goons in the hallway, once again ending up in way over his head.
  • Betty and Veronica: Howard is the Archie to his wife, Dinah (the Betty), who had his kids and a big family, as well as being friendly to fellow parents at her kids' school, but he is actually sleeping with Julia, the loudmouthed, crass, and apparently gold-digging Veronica. But...
  • Betty and Veronica Switch: Julia appears to be the shallow Veronica to Dinah's Betty, but she genuinely adores Howard and shows that she'll stick by him even when the possibility of losing his money is concerned.
  • Big Applesauce: Apart from the prologue, it takes place almost entirely in New York.
  • Big Eater: We only see Gary, Howard's bookie, twice, and both times he's in an upscale restaurant. The second time, he's even in the kitchen, giving very particular instructions to the chef.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Phil ends up murdering his own boss, Arno.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a worm's eye view of an opal, which transitions into a trip through Howard's colon. It ends with a trip into Howard's bullet wound and transitions into opalescent colors.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The ultimate fates of Howard and Arno.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: In the single full conversation they share together, Howard's daughter can barely stand to talk to him for longer than a few moments. Like many things in the movie, it's unclear whether this is her normal behavior, she's pissed off that he missed a portion of her play or related to Howard's behavior around his family in general.
  • Blunt "Yes": This exchange:
    Phil: (angrily) You havin' a good time?!
    Howard: ...yes.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Howard spends the entire film inconveniencing, delaying or just plain irritating Arno's goon Phil in some way. This ultimately earns him a bullet to the face.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite everything else completely falling apart for him, we're never told the nature of his debts. Howard makes two complicated, long-shot bets, and they both hit—Howard may fail at everything else, but is apparently good at sports gambling.
  • Butt-Monkey: Howard gets beaten up, humiliated, screamed at by just about everybody, verbally emasculated by his wife, locked naked in the trunk of a car, and eventually shot in the face.
  • Call-Back: Just like in the directors' previous film, Good Time, the end features an incredibly valuable object being dangled out of a high window. One of the characters even asks if Howard is having a "good time."
  • The Cameo:
    • Tilda Swinton and Natasha Lyonne are heard as, respectively, the auction house manager and a Celtics staff member who talked to Howard over the phone.
    • John Amos of Good Times appears briefly in the movie as himself as one of Howard's neighbors, which also doubles as a Stealth Pun if you know the Safdies' last movie, Good Time.
    • Chiok Va "Eva" Sam, owner of Popular Jewelry: a real-life NYC jeweler known for supplying rappers and athletes with custom pieces. Appears for a few seconds, inspecting a gold chain with her little jewelry scope.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: An especially fast version. Howard uses the sticking security door to escape the loan sharks and then releases them once he's won. However, the door sticks again almost immediately afterward when Arno tries to escape Phil, leading to his death.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Overly-Long Gag about Howard's security door failing to open becomes essential in the climax when he uses it to trap the loan sharks in his shop while Julia goes to Connecticut to bet their money on the semifinals.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Phil is Arno's easily agitated henchman who seems to be a bit of a nuisance to Howard (to put it lightly), injuring him multiple times throughout the film as he grows more impatient. He's also the one who ends up killing Howard, making him a literal Chekhov's gunman.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Howard is a sleazy, hedonistic dirtbag who repeatedly proves to be his own worst enemy.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: This is a deeply profane movie. Even Howard's kids drop a few F-bombs. In fact, it's so profane that it's currently ranked fourth in the "most F-bombs dropped in a movie" category, with 560 uses according to this video published by Netflix themselves. It should be noted that third place, the infamously vulgar The Wolf of Wall Street, only wins out by 9, and is a full 45 minutes longer.
  • Complexity Addiction: Howard has multiple opportunities to square his debts... or to concoct even riskier bets by cheating everyone around him, up to and including his own family. He always chooses the latter. Especially frustrating when you realize that even at its lower-appraised value, he would have still had enough money to square away his debts with Arno just from either selling the opal to KG directly or selling it in the auction.
  • Cool Shades: Howard wears them in the last third of the film to cover up the black eyes he got from Phil after the auction.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Howard's prime mistake was flaunting the opal to Garnett, and then loaning it to him all while on a time crunch. The underlying stress of the entire movie hinges on Garnett not returning the stone promptly, which has multiple domino effects: Howard habitually took the championship ring given to him as collateral and pawned it in order to bet on the game, the bet attracts the attention of Arno and his enforcers who start putting more violent pressure on him, Howard had no time to get the stone appraised by his own guys before handing it to the auction house who (ambiguously) undervalue it, this only leads to getting far less for the gem than expected and he places a monumental bet to try to recoup his losses, which again puts him in danger of Arno.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Incredibly, Howard's final gambit, betting all the money he owes to Arno on the NBA Semifinals, actually works, as the Celtics win and his bet pays off big time. Unfortunately, Phil is too fed up with Howard's shit by this point and decides it would be easier to just kill him and loot his store.
  • Cringe Comedy: Some of Howard's escapades are so desperate and pathetic that they devolve into this, such as the scene where he's forced to ask his neighbors if his son can use the bathroom in their apartment because he doesn't want his son to see the Apartment he uses to have sex with Julia.
  • Cutting the Knot: By the end of the film, Phil has had it with Howard's increasingly audacious behavior and decides to just shoot him and take everything in his store.
  • Deconstruction: Howard Ratner can be read as a deconstruction of the typical Adam Sandler character. Like many of Sandler's characters, Howard is an impulsive loudmouth with a Hair-Trigger Temper and a wife who is way out of his league. In this movie, however, Howard's complete lack of self-control constantly lands him in trouble, his constant jabbering and hot temper irritates and alienates everyone around him, and his gorgeous wife makes no secret of how much she despises him. In fact, this mix of toxic personality traits ends up getting Howard killed.
  • Destination Defenestration: Phil and Nico hold Howard out a window when he reveals that he bet their money on a basketball game.
  • Determinator: Howard, despite being caught in a huge mess, is determined to get out the situation he's in by performing a series of high-stakes acts that threaten him if things go wrong.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Howard never considered the idea that locking violent mobsters in his building was never going to go over well with them no matter how much money he made from winning. Even worse is that he lets them back into the shop where he's defenseless. Especially considering Phil has been very clearly shown to be a violent psychopath and brandished a gun at Howard while trapped.
    • Phil and Niko kill Howard not knowing that Julia ultimately claimed the millions for the bet and is away from their hands. As long as she doesn't stick around anything that has to do with Howard, she's scot-free and filthy rich. It's also heavily implied that they might be locked inside the shop and even if they understand how to fix the door, it'll slow them down enough for the police to arrive. Not only that but they shot and killed Howard and Arno in front of a security camera and also stole all the stuff in the store with their bare hands, thus in turn leaving their fingerprints over the crime scene. Even if they escape before the cops arrive, it won't be hard for the cops to identify and find them.
  • Disappointed in You: Howard's whole family is disappointed by his behavior... including his loan shark and brother-in-law Arno.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Arno towards Howard. It's very clear from the get-go that he doesn't want to hammer on Howard for his debts, but he has to. This tries the patience of his muscle, both for Howard and later for Arno himself for being so wishy-washy towards Howard.
  • Double-Meaning Title: According to the Safdies, the title refers both to the diamonds Howard specializes in (namely the uncut black opal) and Howard himself, with the "uncut gem" being a metaphor for a person rough on the outside but beautiful underneath.
    Benny Safdie: The idea is that he’s rough on the outside, but if you scratched below the surface, you see the beauty, and you see these things that you didn’t quite know were there at first glance. You need to understand him to really love and know who he is.
    Josh Safdie: To me, Howard being an uncut gem is like a corollary to the movie being a radical humanist film, which is kind of in a weird way, all of our movies. Our entire life we’ve grown up with very flawed people around us, and we’ve had to see past those flaws, or excuse them, to get at something that makes them relatable, or human, or worthy of value. In the jewelry trade, uncut gems are major gambles. You have to be a genius with your eye to find one [that is actually valuable].
  • Downer Ending: Howard's gamble pays off big, but Phil still shoots Howard in the face, and the movie ends with him bleeding out on the floor of his shop. Phil also killed his own boss Arno after the latter was horrified by Howard's death. The only possible silver lining is that his family is safe (albeit now without a father), and Julia made off with millions (which isn't a particularly great thing in and of itself, seeing as she's a stupid, selfish, materialistic moron). That being said, Howard did die at probably the happiest moment of his life, which might be all that matters to him by that point.
  • Dragon Ascendant: As soon as Howard wins his biggest bet on the Celtics game and frees Arno, Phil, and Nico, Phil shoots him without hesitation, kills Arno when he protests, and then loots Howard's store alongside Nico.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Howard notes that Arno is completely unthreatening without Phil to back him up. Indeed, Phil completely loses patience with his boss over the course of the movie and unhesitatingly kills him along with Howard at the end.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: After Howard breaks up with her, Julia responds by getting "Howie" tattooed on her ass.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Unsurprising, considering that this is a film that revolves around the business of the Diamond District of New York. Including a diamond-encrusted Furby.
  • Fan Disservice: Adam Sandler appears nude in this film due to a Shameful Strip.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Dinah loathes her husband and wants to get divorced as soon as possible. Howard, on the other hand, isn't so sure, and does his best to delay the inevitable. By the end, Dinah and her Sister are both widows.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Basketball fans will know that Kevin Garnett will lead the Celtics to victory in Game 7 of the Semifinals.
  • Gainax Ending: The final shot zooms into the bullet hole in Howard's face, through a CGI network of strange patterns resembling the inside of the black opal, and ends on a shot of what appears to be outer space before the credits roll.
  • The Gambling Addict: Howard is one, making big bets on basketball. His bookie isn't afraid to tell him that one audacious bet is the stupidest thing he's ever heard. Unsurprisingly, he owes a lot to people and is a target of loan sharks. He is tremendously bold at it too, pawning items that don't belong to him, and gambling exclusively on borrowed money.
  • Gold Digger: Julia is much younger and more attractive than her boss, Howard, but sleeping with him gives her a gorgeous apartment in Manhattan. In fact, this gets entirely subverted: Julia is the most loyal and reliable person in Howard's life. After Howard breaks up with her, she gets "Howie" tattooed on her ass.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: In addition to Arno's crew, a pair of bumbling Jewish men are after Howard for some unresolved debts, but Howard successfully shoos them away every time and they never pose a real threat, eventually just disappearing from the story entirely during the climax.
  • Greedy Jew:
    • Howard is Jewish, and the film revolves around him trying to hustle his way into money to close deals and pay off debts. Given than he's already a successful diamond merchant, and all his debts seem to be related to reckless sports betting, his real problem is being a thrill-seeker rather than being greedy.
    • Subverted. Albeit Arno is in some measures greedier than Howard, he is only Jewish by marriage.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Most people in this movie have a very short fuse. Almost every interaction could turn into a screaming match at any moment.
  • Historical Fiction: The film is set in 2012. The Boston Celtics' performance in the 2012 NBA playoff semifinals are a prominent part of the film.
  • Historical In-Joke: Bet you didn't know that Kevin Garnett's performance in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals came from a possibly-magical black opal, huh?
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Arno and his men try to leave Howard's shop, they're trapped by the broken security door. Instead of letting them leave, Howard keeps them locked in for several hours to watch the game and show off his gambling acumen. This ends up getting him shot in the face after the game ends.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Subverted. Julia makes an accurate prediction about The Weeknd early in his career, saying "He’s going to be major, even though he’s from Canada."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arno. Like most of the people in Howard's life, he's tired of the gambling junkie's debts and debauchery, even going so far as to order his thugs to accost Howard at his daughter's play, strip him naked and lock him in the trunk of his car, and later break his nose. But by Game 7 of the Celtics-76ers series, it's clear that Arno was only trying to humiliate Howard into paying up. He had no intention of inflicting any real harm on his brother-in-law and was even impressed by Howard's successful bet. Unfortunately, his henchman Phil wasn't moved at all and wastes no time in murdering both Howard and Arno in cold blood.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Almost everyone in the film is unpleasant in some form or another, and most of them are more than willing to point out Howard's personal failings. Whether it be his Hair-Trigger Temper, infidelity, his gambling addiction and refusal to pay his debts, or how his apathy to how all of these are ruining his personal and professional relationships.
  • Jeweler's Eye Loupe: Howard lets Kevin Garnett use the loupe to inspect the opal, and Kevin gets so enamored with it that he wants to buy the opal on the spot.
  • Jews Love to Argue: Howard, his family, and much of the diamond district are Jewish, and they spend most of the film arguing with each other.
  • Kavorka Man: Howard is a paunchy, middle-aged sleazebag with some extremely unhealthy habits, but is not only married to the attractive Dinah (who can still fit in her bat mitzvah dress after three children) but also has a mistress in Julia, who's so gorgeous that most men can't help but flirt with her. Though this is subverted with Dinah — though she seems to still have an iota of love for him, she nevertheless loathes him and is no longer attracted to him — Julia sincerely adores him.
  • Lame Comeback: This gem of an exchange:
    Gary: I'll tell you what I know. That's the dumbest fucking bet I've ever heard of.
    Howard: ...I disagree. (turns to walk away) I disagree, Gary!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Immediately after revealing he paid the impoverished Ethiopian miners 1/10th of what he thought the black opal was actually worth, and in the process of justifying why he did it, Howard tempts himself into making another basketball bet with his money, a decision that ultimately costs him his life.
  • Left Hanging: While Howie's story is resolved suddenly and VERY definitively, it's not shown what Julia will do with the money, how Howard's family will react to his and Arno's deaths, or whether Phil and Nico will get away, be arrested or go out shooting.
  • Like Father, Like Son: For all of Howard's failings towards his other children (he misses part of his daughter's play and neglects to tuck in his younger son so that he can watch the NBA game he bet on), he seemingly has a great relationship with his older son, and we see the pair over their mutual love of basketball.
  • Lingerie Scene: Julia has a scene where she arrives at her apartment and strips down to her underwear, stockings, and suspenders. Her boyfriend and boss Howard gets an eyefull of this while hiding in the closet for a prank and starts sexting with her.
  • Loan Shark: Arno, who is backed up by his heavies Phil and Nico. Despite Howard's mounting debts, Arno is reluctant to actually kill Howard because they're related by marriage.
  • Magic Feather: The most likely explanation for the opal's apparent ability to make Kevin Garnett better at basketball.
  • Man Bites Man: Howard bites Phil's arm to get out of a headlock at one point. Phil complains about it throughout the next scene.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Outside of Kevin Garnett, nobody in the movie treats the black opal as anything but an incredibly valuable gemstone. And yet, Garnett has visions staring into the opal, performs much better with the opal as his good luck charm, and Howard meets his death not long after selling it.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Julia's name is sometimes shortened to "Jules", which sounds exactly like "jewels". Quite appropriate for a materialistic young woman in a love affair with a jeweler.
    • While it's pure coincidence from a production point of view, Kevin Garnett also counts, and Harold makes the connection between his gem-themed last name and the opal he is hyping up.
    • Howard Ratner may have been named for Gerald Ratner. He's the former CEO of Signet Jewellers (formerly Ratner Group), the world's largest retailer of diamond jewellery. He's primarily known for a self-defeating act of hubris that led to his downfall in that industry.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The black opal is a classic example. Howard sees it as the key to getting out of the hole he's in, while Kevin Garnett sees it as a possibly-magical good luck charm that will propel him to success in the playoffs.
  • The Mistress: Julia is the young mistress of Howard's as well as his employee. While separated from his wife, he lets her stay in his bachelor's apartment.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The film practically begins on a mood whiplash, as the camera zooms into the ethereal interior of a beautiful black opal...and seamlessly transitions into what turns out to be an inside view of Howard's colon.
    • The ecstatic mood from Howard winning his last bet is rudely interrupted when Phil abruptly shoots him in the face. Played with, as the heavenly score continues on uninterrupted and the film cuts to other scenes of Julia and Howard's family celebrating the win, as if to show how meaningless Howard's life ultimately turned out to be.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Julia is gorgeous, and has a notable scene with Howard where she masturbates a little and is wearing only lingerie.
  • No Indoor Voice: Howard has a very short fuse and starts screaming at the top of his lungs whenever things go wrong, which is all the time. Several characters admonish him to calm down or lower his voice, which only makes him louder.
  • Not So Stoic: A woman Howard calls on the phone regarding the opal situation starts off clipped and professional, but the moment Howard becomes rude to her she starts to hurl insults and profanities with the best of them.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Played straight with Arno, the movie's primary antagonist, who's related to Howard through marriage. Subverted with Gooey, Howard's wealthy father-in-law, who is friendly to Howard during the Passover seder and even goes along with one of his schemes (albeit reluctantly).
  • Pet the Dog: There's a moment in the midst of Arno's thugs stripping Howard down and locking him in the trunk of his car, albeit a brief one, when Howard is pleading with him one last time before he gets locked in. In the next shot, tears are welling up in Howard's eyes. However, it turns into a Yank the Dog's Chain moment not even ten seconds later when he tells his henchmen to even take his underwear.
  • Phoney Call: At one point, Howard pretends to make a phone call to get out of a tough spot but gets caught out on it (by having his phone taken from him) and gets into more trouble as a result.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Howard is an excellent gambler, but a horrible boss. He completely ignores an upset employee to fawn over his new opal. He alienates his partner, Demany, and nearly drives away Julia, his most loyal worker. His criminal troubles constantly put the shop itself in danger.
  • Precision F-Strike: Though most characters in this film are profane with abandon, Howard’s rich father-in-law Gooey is relatively warm and good-natured, up until he gets the winning bid on an opal he didn’t want. Storming out of the auction house in a terrible mood, his last words to Howard are “just take the fucking opal.”
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Howard gets shot with a very small pistol, so his face is perfectly intact apart from a small bullet hole beneath his eye at the end.
  • Protective Charm: Kevin Garnett believes that the opal empowers his athletic ability, and he's willing to pay handsomely to own it. Notably, he has a great game with the opal, plays poorly without it, and then wins the final game after buying it. Howard himself dies a few hours after selling it.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Arno and his henchmen beat up Howard, take his clothes, and force him into the trunk of his own car. Howard is only in the trunk for a few minutes – he calls his wife to come out and unlock it.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Make no mistake, this film has some noisy characters, which is what you'd expect when most of them are hot-tempered ne'er-do-wells trying to make themselves heard in crowded and chaotic urban environments. Their conversations are so full of repetition, shouting, and interruptions of all kinds that their more conventionally cinematic exchanges feel like an example of Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene. Some of this may be intentional, but some of it may also be due to a relative lack of professional actors among the cast.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dinah gives a particularly venomous one to Howard when he asks her to give him another chance, making it extremely clear that they're completely done.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite being a loan shark who keeps a pair of violent mafiosos on retainer, Arno gives Howard multiple opportunities to pay him back and discourages unnecessary violence. This backfires when Phil's patience finally gives out, earning both Howard and Arno himself bullets to the face.
  • Red Herring: The film starts with Howard's colonoscopy, and his doctor notes polyps that will need a biopsy. Howard awaits results of the tests, but he's later revealed to have no issues and the subject is never brought up again.
  • Right Under Their Noses: Arno's goons wait in the lobby of the casino, looking to intercept Julia and the multi-million dollar payout. Julia has her new friend carry duffel bags full of cash right past them out to her in a limo.
  • Ruder and Cruder: While Adam Sandler has been involved with very few works that could be called "squeaky clean", Uncut Gems, his most profanity-laced film, contains 560 uses of the F-word, the fourth-highest usage in film history. And it's not a comedy.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Weeknd is portrayed, at his own request, as a stuck-up diva who gets cockblocked by Howard.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Things never go right for Howard in the film, and the one time that things go right when he wins big on Game 7 of the Celtics-76ers series, he is fatally shot.
  • Shameful Strip: Arno tries to teach Howard a lesson by stripping him naked and locking him in the trunk of his own car, forcing Howard to pitifully ask his wife to let him out over the phone.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Howard and Julia's relationship gets quite ugly at several points in the movie, but it's still by far the most loving relationship that Howard's a part of.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This is a bleak film. It pulls no punches in showing just how self-destructive a gambling addiction can be. Even when Howard's given opportunities to pay back his massive debts, he instead either waste the money on frugality, or makes incredibly risky bets for no reason other than because he wants to win. This creates a vicious self-destructive cycle that he not only can't break, he seems to be unwilling to even attempt to break.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Howard wins the big bet on the Celtics in the climax of the movie, and then lets in Phil, who was threatening Howard after being locked in his door for several hours. Phil then proceeds to shoot and kill Howard. A violent hotheaded mobster who has been constantly butting heads with Howard during the whole movie was not going to be okay with being locked in the room for over three hours no matter how big of a bet Howard just won. No amount of money is worth the shit Howard pulls on them.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Right after winning the biggest bet of his life, Howard gets unceremoniously popped by Phil, who has long since crossed his Rage-Breaking Point.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Howard is killed at the end of the movie, which he could have easily avoided by just paying the mobsters the money he owed them from the get-go. He had multiple chances to do so but constantly made more gambling bets instead, most damningly during the climax where he had the money ready to give to them but immediately bets on the Celtics game instead while locking the mobsters in his building.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The film was released in 2019, but is set in 2012.
  • Whammy Bid: Howard puts the prized opal up for auction. He enlists his father-in-law to drive up the bidding, which predictably backfires.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Howard's life is just a back-and-forth of getting just a little luck, and then immediately losing it.
    • His first bet on the Celtics actually is successful... Until Arno reveals that he canceled the bet, rendering the victory worthless.
    • The opal itself was supposed to be worth over $1 million, but when it's actually appraised, it's only in the very low six figures — still enough to pay off Howard's debts, but not enough for a big payout. Garnett still wants to buy it, but Howard's greed leads him to drive up the auction price until Garnett declines to keep bidding.
    • Garnett still wants the opal, however, so Howard manages to get his ring back and successfully sell him the stone, which is enough needed to pay off his debts to mobsters who are currently in his office. But instead, he bets on the next Celtics game for a massive payout worth millions and actually manages to succeed... Only to be immediately shot in the head at his moment of victory by one of the frustrated mobsters.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Being as the film centers around a bunch of New York Jews, this is to be expected.
  • You Are Too Late: Dinah's final dialogue in the film is her telling her family and friends that she's called the police on Howard because she's concerned about his recent behavior. If only they'd got there in time, they would have prevented Howard's murder.

"This is my fucking way. This is how I win."