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Hustle review: A heart-winning yet clichéd sports drama brought to you by Adam Sandler and LeBron James

Still from Hustle (Image via IMDb)
Still from Hustle (Image via IMDb)

After the likes of Punch Drunk Love (2002) and Uncut Gems (2019), Hustle is another Adam Sandler-starrer that does not play on his wet behind the ears humour. The sports drama features Sandler in the dramatic role of a former basketball player and current scout for Philadelphia 76ers.

The movie was released on June 8, 2022 on Netflix and is a heart-warming sports drama that plays on clichés while managing to engage viewers. An easy-going tone prevails throughout the film, with the coach not being especially testosterone-y and the underdog smiling just enough to appear winsome.

Continue reading for a detailed review of Hustle.


Hustle film summary: Two men's arc to success guided by a never-back-down spirit

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Hustle is Netflix's latest sports drama that features Adam Sandler in the role of Sandy Sugerman, a wry and sardonic basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. Weary of having to spend all his time in airplanes and international hotels, in search of talent, while missing quality time with his own family, he is overjoyed upon receiving a behind-the-bench job as an assistant coach.

Stanley's joy is shortlived however, as Rex Merrick, the owner of Philadelphia 76ers, who offered him the job, dies soon after, and is replaced by his exasperating son Vince Merrick. Vince once again sends Stanley on the hunt for the next big thing, leading him to Mallorca, Spain. It is here that Stanley comes across Bo Cruz, a street basketball player who checks all his boxes for a unique talent.

However, Vince once again places a hurdle in Stanley's path by refusing to include Bo in the team, going on to expose the Spaniard's former transgressions. Infuriated, yet not defeated, Stanley decides to coach Bo and help him become an NBA All-Star Hall-of-Famer.

Hustle is a satisfying and touching tale of two men seeking growth and success, traversing a path full of obstacles with unflinching spirit and undeterred grit.


Hustle is buttressed by Adam Sandler's acting genius, making it a one man show

Sandler's well-balanced, dramatic role does not get pensive. It retains the light-heartedness one would associate with the actor with amusing albeit rare quips and punches.

From his stand-up comedy days to his character betting on NBA stars and games in Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler has always been vocal about his love for basketball. This love and passion seeps into the movie and in his role as Stanley Sugarman, a sardonic and dejected scout for Philadelphia 76ers.

However, the actor does not get too deep into Stanley's forlorn state of affairs and portrays him as a basketball-obsessed coach-cum-father figure to Bo Cruz. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing to keep Stanley's emotions on the surface is each to their own.

Juancho Hernangómez, who plays Bo Cruz, the Spanish underdog turned basketball sensation in the movie, is just one of many professional NBA players displaying his acting chops. While Hernangómez plays for the Utah Jazz, his on-screen rival Kermit Wilts is played by Anthony Edwards, another real-life basketball player.

The reason that Sandler and Hernangómez work so well as an on-screen duo is because Bo's succinct and pithy persona is compensated for, by Stanley's chatty and tongue-in-cheek nature. In the end, however, Hustle remains an Adam Sandler film, with complementary additions from Hernangómez, Queen Latifah, who plays his wife, and Ben Foster's vexing nepotistic team owner Vince Merrick.


The conventional storyline, dialogues, and emotional flavours do not tire out Hustle

Whether it's "You cannot kill what is already dead" or the repeated chanting of "Never back down", Sandler's clichéd words of inspiration do not reflect as much solemnity as they should. However, his funnyman instincts and well-rounded portrayal of Stanley Sugarman is far from tiring.

Hustle does not bring anything new to the plate in terms of inspirational sports drama. Underdog? Check. A zealous coach looking to redeem himself? Check. Obstacles in the journey to success? Check. Last minute hopeful turn of events? Check. Apart from the overwhelming number of NBA players' cameos, the rest of the film is a pretty standard ladder-climbing journey from underdog to sensation.

Although much of the film is predictable and the emotions evoke a sense of deja vu, there are moments of fast-paced sequences that excite viewers. The hustling, during which Bo's basketball prowess really shines through and the very Rocky-like training shared by Sandler and Hernangómez are among such adrenaline-jerking scenes.

The film brings modernity by tapping into social media sensationalism. Additionally, the south Philadelphia setting, along with pop and hip-hop scores by prominent Philadelphia artists also add some unique flavour to Hustle.

Perhaps the best and worst part about the movie is that despite the dramatic nature of the film that follows the conventional arch of making it big in the world of sports, it does not give in to theatrics. The film stays on the surface in terms of emotions and character performances. Where there is a passionate coach, there is also a father-figure who nurtures his trainee. Similarly, where there is a hot-headed underdog, there is also an emotional family man.

One could argue that the film could use more gravity, but the balance doesn't take away from it either despite following a conventional storyline.


Hustle on Netflix: Cast list

The movie combines Sandler's passion for basketball with an over-crowded roster of cameos by NBA stars and legends. With Adam Sandler and LeBron James producing the film, it's not surprising that the movie sometimes seems like a promotional montage for NBA.

Hustle includes a star cast from the worlds of movies and basketball. In the lead roles are Adam Sandler as Stanley Sugerman and Juancho Hernangómez as Bo Cruz. Other cast members include Queen Latifah, Robert Duvall, Ben Foster, Anthony Edwards, Kenny Smith, Heidi Gardner, and many more.


Hustle was released on June 8, 2022 and is available to watch on Netflix.

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal
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