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Film Review: Adam Sandler is on Top in the Feel-Good Sports Drama ‘Hustle’

By Arpit Nayak | Contributor 

Sports as a subject has often been explored in cinema; it’s something widely accepted and loved by the audience. With time, many storytellers have attempted the format, and the newly released Netflix film “Hustle” is another addition.

The story is about Stanley Sugarman (Adam Sandler), a legendary basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. He travels from country to country to find a real talent for his team; we see him mostly living out of hotels. He often talks to his wife on Zoom calls and expresses that due to his job, he has missed almost nine birthdays of his daughter.

As time passes, Stanley finally gets what he desires; he gets promoted to become Assistant Coach of his team-by owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall). 

His dream turns upside down as Rex dies and his son Vince Merrick (Ben Foster) takes over the management. He puts Sugarman back on the road to being a scout to find the missing piece for his team. Disappointed, he goes to Spain to look for a new player. On his journey to Spain, he finds Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez) crushing all the players on street-side basketball. Bo is a construction worker during the day and hustles for easy cash on the basketball court at night and stays with his mother and small daughter. Stanley brings him to America by promising a good life for him and his family. 

Things don’t go as Stanley hoped for, and now his fate is tied to Bo’s. Stanley didn’t want Bo to be on the same path as him — as he made mistakes in his past — which he doesn’t want him to make. They both have everything on the line — and struggles and ups and downs — but only together can they make their dreams come true. Can they make this final hustle of their dreams? The answers lie in this predictable yet heartily sports drama.

 The film is directed by Jeremiah Zagar and written by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters. At the same time, it’s Co-produced by basketball icon LeBron James and Adam Sandler. 

Speaking of the film’s writing, it’s like any other underdog story, which one can easily predict. Yet, the writers bring out the freshness in the characters. A few moments in the story showcase something we often see in the sports stories. They have not tried to take the fairy tale path, but have given it a realistic approach, making the story relatable. One thing where they fall short is Bo’s past story, which does not get equal importance to Stanley’s story.

Speaking of Direction, Jeremiah Zagar does a beautiful job. One thing he gets credit for is that, like many sports dramas, this film is not about one team vs. another or one vs. the world, but the underdog journey and the beautiful relationship between mentor and player. A creator, he rightly shows the detailed process of a player transforming from an unrefined street player into an NBA prospect and a scout into a coach. The film involves many basketball shots, impressively shot by cinematographer Zak Mulligan. He has captured each moment perfectly, which gives the film its authenticity. The music by Dan Deacon is perfect, which helps the story set the right tone.

Adam Sandler has been a legend who has impressed audiences for the longest time. Lately, we have seen him transforming into more dramatic acting roles in films like “Uncut Gems.” With this film, he does something similar — he gets into the skin of scout Stanley Sugarman. From his look to his body language, he is perfect; his dialogue showcases the experience, struggle, and hustle of his character. 

Sandler gives another excellent performance where he showcases emotions with a touch of his great sense of humor. He hits a four-pointer with this role of his. 

Juancho Hernangomez as Bo Cruz is magnificent. It’s easy for him to do things on the court, but off the court, he also does wonders, and his chemistry with Sandler is pitch-perfect. The film also gets excellent support from the supporting cast like Ben Foster, Queen Latifah, and others who help the film in the best way. For basketball fans, there are frequent surprises in the form of cameos by many NBA stars.

“Hustle” is a sports drama that ticks all the boxes, is entertaining, motivating, and has all the correct elements. The film has a predictable story, yet  offers newness; it has excellent acting by Adam Sandler, which is a treat for his fans. Even if one is not a fan, they will likely enjoy it. It’s a must-watch film that gives you a good vibe, which is essential in our time. It’s a family film which all can watch.

You can now watch this film on Netflix. 

Mark Ziobro
Mark Ziobro
Mark is the current Managing Editor for The Utica Phoenix, and a Central New York Native.

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