Adam Sandler doesn’t get half the credit he deserves. This is something we discussed in the Sandlerpisode of The Corner of Film Podcast, but it’s also a pretty well-documented fact. As an actor, musician, comedian, and producer, Sandler possesses skill that he’s rarely acknowledged for, and Hustle is yet more proof of this.
Primarily a sports drama, Hustle tells the story of an aging, semi-washed-up basketball scout named Stanley Sugerman with dreams of being a coach in the NBA. Sent out to find the next NBA star, he discovers an incredibly talented street baller who he believes may fit the bill. Bringing him back to the USA, Sugerman faces more hurdles than he’d expected, but his belief in the young player pushes him to risk it all to help him make it into the NBA.
Alongside Sandler, Hustle features a staggering amount of real-life NBA stars. Juancho Hernangómez appears as Bo Cruz, the untested young Spanish player who Stanley takes under his wing, with Anthony Edwards also featuring in an antagonistic role as a rival player preparing for the NBA draft. Queen Latifsh, Ben Foster, and Robert Duvall also star, and there are numerous other NBA players both past and present who make minor appearances.
Hustle‘s cast gives the film some valid basketball credentials, but even when looked at generally as a sports drama, it does its job well. Sandler’s performance hits all the right dramatic notes, and Hernangómez delivers a surprisingly heartfelt performance, proving his own acting talent. Edwards’ performance also stands out as particularly competent, making Hustle‘s casting of NBA stars in central roles a risk that pays off well.
At times, Hustle is a little corny and by-the-numbers. It features one of the longest continuous montages in sports movie history, and its large cast of characters feels a little overstuffed at times. However, its story is straightforward and easy to follow, and it falls into the safe and comforting pattern of many other sports dramas.
Hustle isnt especially innovative, but it achieves everything it sets out to do with genuine competence. This makes it an emotionally engaging watch, with Sandler proving again that he’s far more verstile than his detractors would have you believe. Though it’s unlikely to be considered among the best films of the year, Hustle is a film with heart, even if it is relatively formulaic.
Summary: Though it doesn’t push the envelope, Hustle is a competently made and genuinely entertaining sports drama that boasts sound performances from its cast.
Highlights: Hustle‘s basketball sequences and many NBA cameos enrich the film by properly delivering on its premise, lending a sense of reality to its story.