Stanley Sugerman’s (Adam Sandler) love for basketball is unparalleled, but the travel weary Philadelphia 76ers scout who has higher ambitions of being a coach remains stuck on the road looking for the next unknown talent. His search around the world leads him to Spain, when he discovers Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), an incredible streetball player with a troubled past.
Stanley and Bo connect on and off the court, with their passion for the game and as loving family men who want to prove they can win, in basketball and in life. With the support of Stanley’s wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), can the underdogs come out on top?
Boy does it ever feel amazing to watch a genuinely good Adam Sandler movie. The A-list actor has starred in a plethora of films spanning several decades, and despite the fact that he is one of the most recognizable actors in the world, let’s be fair – he stars in a lot of hot garbage. Pixels, Jack & Jill, and Grown Ups are just a few of the absolutely atrocious films the actor has starred in over the years.
But every so often, Sandler shocks the world by delivering a serious performance in a dramatic film, proving that he actually can work magic in front of the camera if he’s given the right material to work with. Easily my favorite dramatic role of his has to be in 2019’s Uncut Gems, which is quite possibly the most unbearably tense film I’ve ever seen in my life. Ever since watching that film when it was released and revisiting it numerous times, I’ve been craving another good dramatic Sandler performance.
Finally, it’s here. Jeremiah Zagar‘s Hustle may be a formulaic and by-the-book sports drama, but it finds some clever ways to tug at the heartstrings and will make you feel deeply inspired by the end. Even if you’ve never touched a basketball in your life, it’s nearly impossible to not smile and get invested in this storyline. A large part of why this movie works as well as it does is because of Adam Sandler’s work here as Stanley Sugarman, who wants to be the best coach possible for a promising young player.
Early on in the film, he watches the player – Bo Cruz – absolutely destroy his opponents on the court, but he’s not playing professionally. Sugarman sees this as a huge wasted opportunity and tells him he has what it takes to get to the NBA, and now we have a setup for a movie. Of course, it’s not as easy as simply getting into the NBA. The biggest issue with Cruz is that he lets a lot of things get to his head.
There is one player in particular that always gets on his case by making insults about his family and daughter, which riles him up. Sugarman does his best to tell him to ignore him, but it doesn’t always work. But whenever his head is clear, Cruz is an all-star on the court. Together, Sugarman and Cruz have to find a way to make it work or else Cruz won’t be able to get into the NBA.
It’s a legitimately intense movie even though it can definitely be a little bit predictable at times, and contains an ending that you will see coming a mile away. This movie doesn’t really do anything to reshape sports dramas as we know them, but it still manages to be deeply investing along the way. Sandler is fantastic in the role of Stanley Sugarman, as is Juancho Hernangómez as Bo Cruz. These two have incredible chemistry together, and the vast majority of their scenes are highly emotional and exhilarating.
You’re not going to watch Hustle and find it to be a game-changer. It’s a formulaic sports drama that goes by the book, but it’s still a relentlessly entertaining, inspiring, and oftentimes hilarious film with some great lead performances.
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