You can tell that there is newfound passion with Adam Sandler’s last few films.
2019’s Uncut Gems felt like it was one of the rare times that Adam Sandler put in the effort that should have been rewarded in Oscar season but sadly wasn’t. Hubie Halloween was a tribute to fallen teen actor Cameron Boyce who passed away before filming the movie.
That brings us to the latest Sandler movie which has hit Netflix called “Hustle”, a film that is centered in the world of Adam’s favorite sport…basketball.
It’s no secret that Sandler is a massive NBA fan so when the opportunity came to do a film based on the NBA starring a bunch of active and retired players with Lebron James serving as a producer, it is easy to see why he jumped at this idea.
“Hustle” is a film about an aging international scout for the Philadelphia 76ers named Stanley Sugerman (Sandler). Stanley is constantly on the road in search of future stars but living in hotels is having a negative impact on his family. Stanley wants to be a coach of a team and he almost gets the chance until the owner of the team dies and he is left in the hands of his arrogant son (Ben Foster).
On a trip to Spain, Stanley discovers a street basketball phenomenon named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez) who has ability that Stanley hasn’t seen in years. The problem is that the new owner of the 76ers is not interested in signing Stanley’s pet project. Stanley risks his entire career on making Cruz the next big name in the National Basketball Association but a series of road blocks could have him lose everything.
As someone who was a major fan of the old school 1980s/1990s NBA and personally can’t stand what the NBA has become in 2022, “Hustle” is genuinely one of the best films about the ins and outs of the league that I’ve ever seen.
Sandler gives one of the strongest performances of his career as his character builds a relationship with a prospect with a massive upside but lacks discipline. The film is packed with real NBA players either playing themselves or characters based on themselves which gives the film an extra layer of authenticity to hang on.
Juancho Hernangómez, who currently plays for the NBA’s Utah Jazz is the standout playing the role of Bo Cruz. Cruz is loosely based on Hernangómez himself, a defensive phenomenon from Spain who can shoot but has issues controlling his cool. The film mentions how Cruz’s father left him early in life which leads to Stanley playing a father like role which creates the bond that sets the tone for the rest of the film.
There are tons of cameos here from current and former NBA players such as Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, Trae Young, Aaron Gordon, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. The best cameo is from Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves who plays the role of the rival prospect Kermit. Edwards is essentially a pro wrestling heel and does a great job as the evil counterpart of Cruz.
The film isn’t all serious, there is a nice blend of comedy as well that doesn’t take from the main story. “Hustle” is a solid window into how life in the front office of the NBA actually works which makes the movie one of the best sport dramas in the last few years.
There isn’t much to celebrate on Netflix these days but “Hustle” is certainty an exception to the rule.