Hustle Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Adam Sandler gives basketball the Rocky treatment, adding a lot of NBA cameos. But can this Netflix-produced sports flick impress?
Genre: Drama / Sports
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Cast: Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangómez, Ben Foster, Queen Latifah, Jordan Hull, Maria Botto, Ainhoa Pillet, Kenny Smith, Heidi Gardner & Robert Duvall.
Run Time: 117 min.
US Release: 08 June 2022 (Netflix)
UK Release: 08 June 2022 (Netflix)
German Release: 08 June 2022 (Netflix)
I am a big Adam Sandler fan, loving most of his early comedies such as; The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Anger Management but he mostly shines in dramas like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me or Uncut Gems. However, I also need to confess that he made a lot of bad movies as of late, specifically in combination with Netflix. Thus I was sceptical when Netflix added Hustle to its Top 10 list, specifically because it mismarketed it as a comedy. To my surprise, I obtained a beautiful sports drama with a fantastic Adam Sandler!
When Stanley Sugarman, a basketball scout for the 76ers, discovers a phenomenal street ball player in Mallorca, Spain he sees an opportunity to not only turn the young hustler into one of the best basketball players but also a path to get himself back into the NBA.
Scripted by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters, Hustle is on paper a conventional sports drama that copies the formula of Rocky, sprinkled with a little bit of Jerry Maguire, then exchanging boxing with a basketball plot. It really doesn't add anything new to the genre, what it does, however, is tell a compelling story that contains an emotional note and an even more important message, about never backing down to reach your dreams. This is a film from basketball lovers for basketball lovers, furthermore, it is the “feel-good” flick of the year, leaving audiences with a smile on their faces and a tear in their eyes.
It also contains little side stories about the two leads’ families, yet never goes into full detail. A shame because it would have fleshed out both characters more. The dialogues contain a good portion of humour, though not too much that it strays off into comedic territory, while the heartfelt talks between Stanley and Bo are emotionally inspiring.
Adam Sandler, known for his love of basketball, plays Stanley Sugerman, an ageing sports scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. Having had the potential to become an NBA player himself, Stanley’s life took another turn as unpredicted circumstances veered him off that path. Now ready to reach the next step in his career, Stanley is looking forward to leaving his life of travel behind and obtaining a more stable job, especially as he needed to put his family behind his job… That is until he finds an unknown player in Spain, that no one in the US shows interest in.
Sandler himself is amazing in this role, implanting the affection for the sport into the character while being very likeable thanks to his on-screen charisma. This is one of his best performances as of late and proves again that the man can act!
Juan Alberto “Juancho” Hernangómez Geuer is making his acting debut as Bo Cruz, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, who like Stanley had the chance to enter the NBA, but due to unforeseen events, needed to decline. Hernangomez, being an actual B-ball player currently for the Utah Jazz, brings a lot of credibility to his character. He also surprises in more dramatic or emotional segments with his acting skills and his chemistry with Sandler felt natural, making their friendship credible!
Queen Latifah returns to the screen as Stanley’s wife Teresa Sugerman. Latifah had really good chemistry with Adams, selling their relationship as husband and wife, and parents to their teenage daughter Alex. I would have liked to see more of her on-screen, as I believe it would have grounded the character of Stanley even more.
Ben Foster took on the role of Vince Merrick, heir to the ownership of the 76ers, as well as Sugarman’s opponent. He is a slimy, envious, petty character who sadly doesn’t get enough screen time, to really represent the impact he has on Stanley and Bo’s life.
The Basketball action was also helmed incredibly well, mostly because of real, professional players taking on cameos or small roles, to play against the main character. However, a lot of credit also goes to director of photography Zak Mulligan, who captured the gameplay as if on an NBA court, thus managing to give the sequences a lot of adrenaline. Lighting and colour grading moved away from the typical Netflix look, with a darker and grounded atmosphere.
Other than that, the picture makes use of the typical training montages with quick cuts, reminiscent of Rocky or Creed. A combination of mounted and hand-held cameras that gave it a semy documentary fell, as well as mobile phone cameras to include the importance of social media nowadays - although I found that aspect was unnecessary.
The score to Hustle was composed by Dan Deacon, combining sombre, nearly non-existent piano pieces with fast-paced, powerful percussion / electronic sounds that suit the picture's atmosphere well. It also makes use of hip-hop and rap songs during montages.
Verdict: I have been giving Netflix a hard time this year, however, it only released mediocre or trash films until now. Jeremiah Zagar’s sports drama is nothing out of the ordinary, it doesn't reshape the genre, however, it is “chicken soup for the soul” and a very good one at that! The script is a blend of Jerry Maguire and Rocky, containing a lot of love for the sport of basketball while fleshing out its two leads with enough backstory. Sandler and Hernangómez, who makes his acting debut in this BB drama, have fantastic chemistry, making their character’s growing friendship more believable! Sandler gives one of his best performances, infusing his passion for the sport into the movie. Cinematography is pretty basic, yet makes good use of blends between mounted and held-hand cameras. In the end, Hustle is one of the better sports dramas and a great time watching, fully deserving an 8.0 out of 10.
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