Hustle | Channel

Adam Sandler in Hustle.

Photo: Scott Yamano / Netflix






4/5 Stars


After discovering a once-in-a-lifetime player with a rocky past abroad, a down on his luck basketball scout takes it upon himself to bring the phenom to the States without his team’s approval. Against the odds, they have one final shot to prove they have what it takes to make it in the NBA.


Adam Sandler’s new movie is not funny, it’s not sad, and it’s not serious – it’s the perfect mix of all of those things, and even if you’re not a superfan of basketball, you will still enjoy watching this movie.

Hustle tells the story of pro basketball scout Stanley Sugerman (Sandler), who, after getting fired, is excited when he serendipitously discovers Spanish amateur baller, Bo Cruz (pro-basketballer Juancho Hernangomez), playing in a park outside Madrid. Fueled with a newfound purpose, Stanley makes it his mission to groom Bo for the NBA as he believes they both can make it.

First and foremost, if there were ever going to be a Hollywood actor who owns a production company and is obsessed with basketball to make a movie about basketball, it would be Sandler. According to an inside source, the actor requested a court be built at Sun City when he was in South Africa to film Blended. And if that’s not enough, Sandler often referred to the sport when he was still doing stand-up years ago.

As I mentioned before, if you don’t regularly watch basketball, you’ll enjoy this movie for its touching story, outstanding performances and undeniable chemistry between its stars. If you are a b-ball fan, however, you’ll find yourself wondering who didn’t make the cut when it comes to the roster of NBA players and prominent figures who appear as themselves or in character roles. But don’t let that for one second deter you. Yes, the film is so basketball-orientated that you may, for even just a moment, think it is based on a true story. Still, Hustle passes around sports movie cliches with a light touch that you never feel lost or as if you need to have Google on hand to find who you are looking at and what their influence in the sport was.

There’s plenty in Hustle that is predictable – from training montages that will take you back to Rocky Balboa’s Gonna Fly Now moment, to a rags to riches story arc that involves a coach risking it all for one player. But this is quality filmmaking from director Jeremiah Zagar, with enough that sets it apart from all the rest. The sharp camerawork and clever editing capture basketball in all its beauty, whether on the streets or in indoor arenas. And the score, orchestrated by Dan Deacon, hits all the right notes whether the audience needs a panicky jolt of energy or to grab the tissues.

For Sandler, Hustle is a film that is “kind of a combination of stuff I’ve done in the past and a newer version of who I am,” he told Entertainment Weekly in May. The actor has been moving towards more serious roles in recent films, and they have almost edged closer and closer to taking the sports genre head-on. Take his turn in Uncut Gems as a jeweller who bets on the semi-finals round of the NBA playoffs while trying to reclaim an expensive gem from real-life NBA star Kevin Garnett. But in Hustlehe has reached his destination, and successfully I might add.

Nothing could ever replace Happy Gilmore or The Waterboybut fortunately Hustle is incomparable to Sandler’s history of comedic sports movies. It’s a film that is in a league all on its own, and sure, it’s predictable, but for Adam Sandler, it’s a win that I was not expecting.


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