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Posts Tagged ‘Lakeith Stansfield’

Adam Sandler

“UNCUT GEMS” My rating: C+

135  minutes | MPAA rating: R

Funnyman Adam Sandler undergoes a remarkable transformation in  “Uncut Gems.”  He’s really, really effective as a Diamond District hustler whose debts and sins are rapidly closing in on him.

That said, the latest from the writing/directing Safdie Brothers (Benny and Josh) is like having an irate New Yawk cabbie screaming nonstop in your ear for two-plus hours.

Sandler plays Howard Ratner, the middle-aged proprietor of a Manhattan jewelry store.  He calls himself a jeweler but he’s not so much an expert in gemology as he is a full-time con artist, always looking for his next (not necessarily legal) kill.

Howard is an inveterate gambler who always is nurturing a get-rich-quick scheme.  He’s got a furious wife (Idina Menzel) and kids in the ‘burbs,  a girl squeeze (Julia Fox) he keeps in an apartment in the city, and a crushing gambling debt that finds him being stalked by a pair of underworld enforcers  (Tommy Dominik, Keith William Richards).

Howard’s sure that his latest scheme will turn everything around. He has somehow gotten his hands on a “black opal,” a fist-sized gem smuggled out of Africa.  He’s already arranged to have this spectacular rock sold by a prestigious auction house; surely it will leave him set for life. Or at least alive.

Or maybe not.  His streetsmart associate Demany (LaKeith Stansfield) introduces Howard to basketball star Kevin Garnett (playing himself, and most convincingly), who so loves the big opal that he asks to carry it around with him for a few days. He comes to regard it as his good luck charm.

Always looking for an edge, Howard agrees, figuring that a generous gesture now will turn the sports millionaire into a long-term bling buyer. (more…)

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Lakeith Stansfield

“CROWN HEIGHTS” My rating: C+ 

94 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The real-life miscarriage of justice depicted in Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights” is both outrageous and all too common.

In 1980 Colin Warner, a native of Trinidad living in Brooklyn, was implicated in the shooting death of another young man. A witness claimed that Warner drove the killer’s getaway car; the victim’s brother said Warner’s mug shot (Warner had a history of car theft) looked like one of the shooters.

Warner had never met any of these individuals and was at a loss to explain his predicament. Even the detectives who arrested him  suspected that he probably didn’t do it…but they needed to clear the case and move on.

As a result, Colin Warner spent nearly two decades in prison before an extraordinary effort on the part of one of his friends led to his release.

“Crown Heights” is basically a legal procedural that takes a docudrama approach. This is both its strength and its weakness.

Writer/director Ruskin appears to hew closely to the facts of the case. But he also refuses to speculate on his characters’ inner lives…with the result that the film, despite its incendiary nature, feels emotionally neutral.

It’s easy enough to become furious about what happened to Colin Warner; but as drama “Crown Heights” leaves us wanting.

(more…)

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