A straight-to-Netflix rags-to-riches basketball drama starring Adam Sandler? Sign me up, and you should sign up too. Hustle is the kind of sports film that sticks to formula but nails every shot, making it a worthy entry in the drama.
Sandler gives a strong performance as Stanley Sugarman, a longtime NBA scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who had the respect of the team’s owner (Robert Duvall)–until the owner died and his less appreciative son (Ben Foster) takes over. Suddenly on the outs, Stanley stakes his comeback on a Spanish phenom who he believes could be the next great basketball star.
Despite wasting some strong acting talent (Duvall is basically in cameo mode, Foster is relegated to a background villain role, and Queen Latifah is “given the honor” of portraying the dutiful wife), Hustle wisely focuses on Sandler and co-star Juancho Hernangomez, who in real life plays for the Utah Jazz. The two have strong chemistry together, Hernangomez has wild charisma, and Sandler once again demonstrates he has the chops to cut it as a serious actor.
While most of the basketball cameos were lost on me, NBA fans will find plenty to enjoy–there are several engaging basketball sequences and “behind the scenes” drama that plays up the business of scouting and selling players.
The two-hour runtime goes by fast, in part thanks to Sandler’s energetic performance. Director Jeremiah Zagar’s work shouldn’t be overlooked, however; he has assembled an entertaining sports flick that purposefully feels a little rough around the edges while still hewing to mainstream sentiments.
Hustle may not push boundaries, but if you like sports movies, the decision to watch this one is a slam dunk.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.