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HUSTLE (2022)

Release Date: 06/08/22 [Netflix]

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Sport

Studio: Netflix


"A washed-up basketball scout discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA."


Jeremiah Zagars’ Hustle is an excellent example of a film that won't surprise you with its plot; something you’ve seen countless times before, and constantly know where the story is heading. That being said it manages to dazzle you. Presenting with its well-defined and realized characters, a feature that dribbles and slam dunks its ball right into your heart.  


Everybody loves an underdog story, specifically when it’s well made. Hustle is at its core just that. Centering on an unknown and untrained basketball player from Spain, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), who is inadvertently discovered by Philadelphia 76ers talent scout Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler). Stanley, a family man with a wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), and daughter, Alex (Jordan Hull) is burnt out from his job. As the film opens with a montage, showing Stanley taking countless flights to different countries to attend several basketball games. Searching for the next possible star player for the 76ers team. We see this entails numerous nights spent in five-star hotels and that he's fueled by a bad habit of eating nothing but fast food. The travel his job requires, unsurprisingly, often keeps him away from home. A confrontational scene between Stanley and Vince Merrick (Ben Foster), the son of the 76ers owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall), best displays the stability of his lifestyle, as he expresses he's missed his daughter's last 9 birthdays due to it. 


While the storyline develops with the conventional: burnt-out scout finds the hidden gem of a player against the resistance of the Philadelphia 76ers office. It would be easy for the film's scribes Fetters and Materne to fall into the trap, that is, to write the white male finding and using a person of color or foreigner for personal and/or monetary gain. Hustle avoids this with ease, thanks to its pacing along with the dedication ‌to fleshing out the character of Bo Cruz and the budding relationship between Bo and Stanley. After all, the relationship between these two underdogs is the heart of Hustle.


I cannot state enough how much of a joy it is to watch Adam Sandler take on more dramatic roles recently. Although the role of Stanley Sugerman is much more straightforward, relatable, and humanistic than the anxiety-inducing yet charismatic caricature that is Howard Ratner in 2019s Uncut Gems, it's clear that Sandler has a knack for being as versatile as the role demands. Hopefully, he continues to branch out from his typical Sandler comedic roles, which have been growing stale for quite a while, as it's clear he has more to give to cinema. While Sandler is a standout in Hustle, it's impractical to overlook Juancho Hernangomez's superb turn as Bo Cruz. A character placed into a fish out of water situation, on account of uprooting his life in pursuit of his dream to play professional basketball‌. Perhaps most crucially, to provide a better life for his daughter and mother. Hernangomez’s honest, hardworking, and compassionate portrayal of Bo Cruz is as genuine as the character himself. 

Although Hustle isn't rewriting the playbook in the sports category with its traditional story, what it lacks in originality is made up for with its lead actors, well-written characters, and inspiring message. While there are moments during the film where it tugs too much on your heartstrings, it never plunges itself into cringeworthy melodrama territory. Where plenty of similar sports films have fouled, Hustle results in a win.

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