Edge-of-the-seat means something very different until one watches a Safdie brothers film. To be clearer, the previous statement does not imply anything about the comparative intensity of the duo’s movies, but about what they make you feel: stressed and worried. ‘Uncut Gems‘ is another Safdie brothers film that manages to do that. It never lets viewers stop wanting to pull their hair out till the very last scene.
The film stars Adam Sandler and is set in a New York that is not seen much on the screen. Safdie Brothers’ New York (Diamond District, to be precise) is one filled with chaotic business, shady dealings, and tons of tension. It is only in the final scene when viewers are allowed a moment of respite. However, several viewers would have had multiple questions about the ending.
Uncut Gems Plot Summary
Sandler plays the character of Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner who is always gambling in some form or another. A busy businessman, Ratner is constantly looking for ways to multiply his money even if those means might be risky. This has led to him racking up a debt of $100,000 to a loan shark named Arno. His latest big bet is on a rare Ethiopian black opal that gets delivered to him at the start of the movie.
Ratner has two kids with his separated wife, Dinah. Other than that, he is sexually and romantically involved with his employee, Julia. A basketball player, Kevin Garnett, visits his office and becomes obsessed with the black opal. He wants to keep it with him for an NBA game. Reluctantly, Howard agrees but keeps Garnett’s championship ring as collateral.
Then, Howard pawns the ring and places a bet on Garnett’s game. However, his bet is stopped by Arno. Howard manages to find out that the person who brought Garnett to his office, Demany, is at a party. Howard goes to the party and finds out that Garnett still has the opal. At the party, he finds Julia snorting coke with The Weekend. He gets into a brawl with the artist and demands Julia to move out.
Luckily, Garnett returns the opal before the auction that Howard has put it in. Upon discovering that the opal has been appraised for a much lesser sum of money, Howard convinces his father-in-law to bet on it, to increase its selling price. However, his father-in-law ends up having to buy it since nobody, including Garnett, matches the prize. Right after that, Arno and his thugs attack Arno, demanding their money.
When Howard returns to the office, Julia shows him a tattoo of his name that she got on her butt. They reconcile. Garnett tells Howard that he still wants to buy the opal. Howard sells him the opal but sees Arno and his thugs at his store’s entrance via the camera. He makes a quick and bold decision right then: he gives the money that Garnett gave him to Julia and makes her leave the office. He instructs her to place a bet with all of the money on Garnett’s game.
Arno and his thugs threaten Howard for the money, but Howard refuses to call Julia and cancel the bet. When Arno and his thugs decide to get to Mohegan Sun, Howard locks them between his security doors. Julia manages to place the bet. Howard ends up winning close to $1.2 million! He lets Arno and his thugs out. However, one of Arno’s thugs shoots Howard and then shoots Arno too. The thugs start looting the store.
Uncut Gems Ending Explained: Is Howard Dead?
Well, the ending does feel like a huge sigh of relief because all of Howard’s worries are finally over, even if that is because he is dead. The camera pans towards the bullet hole on his face in the end and then cuts to graphics showing the opal’s beauty. It does appear that he is dead. He has been shot at a rather delicate place after all, and it would be difficult to survive that. Moreover, if Howard were alive, the movie’s final message would lose out on its meaning.
The ending signifies how Howard’s life revolved around gambling. It wasn’t just about the money for him. He lived for the thrill of gambling. That is the reason he got so obsessed with the opal. It was his big bet. It was a bet he had been working for over a period of several months. This thrill and shortcut-approach to life got him in multiple sticky situations until it reached a point where it seemed impossible for him to save the day in the end. However, a last-minute gamble paid off. Yet, he couldn’t control everything (the temperament of Arno’s bodyguard) and was killed.
However, his death, in many ways, got him and viewers tons of respite. It was finally over. He could finally rest in peace. Yes, there is no confirmation regarding his death. But as mentioned earlier, his death certain given the above-stated meaning that the Safdie brothers try to give. The reason that it might have been left could have been to allow viewers to brood on the possibility of Howard’s death. His death, after all, subverts the general Hollywood formula, but there there is no other way that the film could have ended more satisfactorily. The Safdie brothers effectively allow the viewers a moment to consider the possibility that Howard could be alive and then organically believe that the plot would certainly point to his death.
Uncut Gems Ending Explained: What Happened to the Money?
Something else that viewers would have wondered about in the end is this: what happens to the money? Well, Julia ends up playing her cards smartly. She asks a man who had been flirting with her to grab the money on her behalf since she had seen one of Arno’s thugs waiting to grab her. That turned out to be quite a witty move as she was able to get away with the money. However, what does she do with the money? Well, that is more of an open ending. Maybe Arno’s thugs manage to find her later as well. Or maybe, she actually gets to keep it. That is open for speculation! Arno himself is dead.
As far as Arno’s thugs go: they are seen looting Howard’s store. They would, in all probability run away with the jewelry in hopes of making a tiny fortune themselves. However, the CCTV camera in Howard’s office capturing the death of Arno and Howard is shown multiple times. This might indicate the fact that they would eventually be caught. The murder, after all, is not quite clean.
Apart from that, one might be wondering what would happen to Howard’s family. Well, Howard and his wife were practically separated completely. His family would still be devastated to hear about his death. Several viewers and sources have pointed out the fact that Julia might give them some money because of her apparent good-hearted nature. However, that seems unlikely to me. Julia, if she manages to keep the money to herself, would spend it on herself in all likelihood. Again, that is left open to interpretation too.
Read More: Uncut Gems Filming Locations