Those who only know Adam Sandler as the guy who makes fart jokes on Netflix will be in for a huge surprise in this tense thriller, from the directors of 2017 indie hit Good Time. He transforms himself as Howard, a Manhattan jeweller who finds himself on a downward spiral regarding his decisions surrounding a rare gem.
Fast talking and fearless, this is unlike anything that’s come before from the actor. Even previously lauded dramatic performances such as Punch Drunk Love still carried something of Sandler’s usual persona, whereas Howard feels like an entirely different being.
A whirlwind of compulsion, the camera follows Howard around New York City as he attempts to solve his problems through a series of increasingly high-stakes risks. Most impressive is the assured nature of Sandler’s performance – he’s baffled that his debtors don’t see why the next bet is a sure thing, or why the next deal will make them all rich.
He views family as an inconvenience, leading to darkly comic moments such as a shakedown at his daughter’s school play. He gels perfectly with talented co-stars Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, and New York itself, while the city is portrayed as a tapestry of decadence, where everyone is looking for their next fix.
It all gels wonderfully with the directorial style of the Safdie Brothers, once again telling a story of mounting stakes and unbearable tension. They feel like filmmakers from a different era, with the low-fi visual approach and electronic soundtrack reminiscent of the independent movie boom of the 90s.
While the format is similar to Good Time, this follow up is enough to confirm the duo as names to watch, as well as giving us hope that Sandler’s next dramatic turn isn’t too far away.