Hustle is the latest Netflix Original Movie from Adam Sandler. The film is produced by Sandler and also LeBron James. Hustle stars Sandler as Stanely Sugerman, a road-weary NBA Talent Scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. While on a trip to Spain, Sugerman discovers streetball player, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez), and commits to bringing him to the US and the NBA.
It’s no secret that Adam Sandler loves the game of basketball. The actor has a well-known affinity for basketball, so it’s no surprise that Hustle is Sandler’s “love letter” to basketball.
STRONG STARTING LINEUP FOR ‘HUSTLE’
Sandler appears right at home as Stanley Sugerman. Leveraging his understanding of basketball along with experience in dealing with an unforgiving business, Sandler brings a believable performance to the character. The actor naturally transitions between serious and comedic moments with ease. A real strength that the actor has developed over the years. Sandler also brings an everyman charm to the role. It’s not too much of a stretch to think Sandler was able to pull inspiration for Sugerman and the adversity he faces from the actor’s business dealings in Hollywood where, like the NBA, talent only gets you so far.
Hernangómez does a standout job in his role. I honestly did not realize he was an actual NBA player until digging deeper into the cast of the film. As I watched the movie, I wondered to myself how they found an actor capable of making the basketball scenes look legitimate. So it was to my surprise when I realized Bo Cruz was played by an NBA player who had never acted previously. This casting was great, as Hernangómez brought an authenticity to the character that a non-basketball player would not have been able to. The dynamic between Hernangómez and Sandler was clearly visible throughout the movie and a strong piece of its success.
THE SUPPORTING PLAYERS IN ‘HUSTLE’
In addition to Sandler and Hernangómez, the cast also includes Queen Latifah, Jordan Hull, Ben Foster, and Robert Duvall. Queen Latifah is great, if also a bit underutilized, as Teresa, the wife of Sugerman. She brings warmth and understated humor to the role and the chemistry between her and Sandler is excellent. The only complaint is the overall lack of screentime for Queen Latifah, but with the focus on the journey of Sugerman and Cruz, it’s not unexpected.
Joining the cast of established Hollywood actors are a slew of NBA all-stars. The full list can be seen during the end credits, which I suggest watching through just to see all of the names. Many of the appearances are cameos but are still used in a way to bring a sense of legitimacy to the film. Having Shaquelle O’Neil, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson comment on Bo Cruz from the set of Inside the NBA, makes it feel like you could be watching real life unfold.
While most of the NBA players in the movie play themselves, there are a few exceptions. Kenny Smith as Leon Rose, a sports agent and close friend of Sugerman, and Anthony Edwards as Kermit Wilts, an on-the-court antagonist to Bo Cruz. Edwards does an admirable job in bringing the trash-talking Wilts to life.
TYPICAL UNDERDOG SPORTS FILM
Hustle at its core is a traditional “underdog sports film.” There are a few twists and turns as the story unfolds, but many of the usual sports film cliches are present. A prime example of sports film trademarks is the training montage that runs for several minutes during the middle of the movie. Thankfully, Hustle is able to make use of this to further build the growing relationship between Sugerman and Cruz.
As the movie progresses, several of the plot twists are easily anticipated by anyone familiar with these types of movies. Overall the plot is comfortable and predictable. You’ll feel sad at moments that are supposed to be sad, and happy at moments that are supposed to be happy. That is not to say that makes the movie bad; it is still very enjoyable to watch. The real strength of the movie is the second-chance story and relationship between Stanely Sugerman and Bo Cruz, with Sugerman essentially filling a father figure role for Cruz. These moments are where Hustle really shines.
The feel-good aspects of the story along with the excellent cast make Hustle a very approachable movie to watch. As you watch the movie, it will feel comfortable like a layup more so than an exciting slam dunk. And while it may not subvert any expectations of a sports movie, I still strongly recommend giving it a watch.
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