Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Writers: Taylor Materne and Will Fetters
Starring: Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster, Juancho Hernangóme, and Robert Duvall
Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix film is sports drama Hustle, in which Sandler stars as basketball scout Stanley Sugerman. While Sandler is best known for his over-the-top comedy, he’s also played a few serious roles, such as with Uncut Gems and the excellent The Meyerowitz Stories (Net and Selected). Hustle is a mix of the two. It’s a grounded drama, with a little hint of humour, but not the outrageous or crude comedy Sandler is known for. Instead, it is a simple feel-good underdog tale.
After years as an international scout, spending most of his time in hotels with fast food (and there’s enough product placement in the first few minutes to cover more a few Netflix passwords being shared), Stanley is promoted to assistant coach of the Philadelphia 76ers by his boss, Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall). The promotion is short-live though, as Rex dies and his son takes over, moving Stanley back to being a scout and sent to Spain to look for a new player.
Adam Sandler is surprisingly very good as Stanley, the aging coach who feels that his chance to follow his dream has passed. There’s none of the anger and intensity you’d expect from him, instead he’s level-headed and completely believable in the role. He’s instantly charming and you’re invested in what happens to him. While in Spain, Stanley discovers unknown player Bo Cruise (Juancho Hernangóme). His skill shocks Stanley, and when his new boss doesn’t share his enthusiasm, Stanley brings Bo back to America in order to get him a position on any team, even if the 76ers don’t take him.
You can probably guess how the film plays out, as it sticks to the same formula as most sports/underdog dramas. Bo and Stanley go through highs and lows together, with a lot standing in their way to achieve their goal. It’s a tried and tested story, and it really works here. Both Sandler and Hernangóme are great, and there’s a real focus on the struggles that Bo has gone through to get where he is today. It’s as much about overcoming your past as it is about basketball. There’s a pretty great montage (which is mandatory for any sports drama) and even a reference to Rocky (again mandatory, especially since it’s set in Philadelphia for the most part).
Most of the films Sandler has released with Netflix have been mixed, but this is one of the better ones. It’s mostly predictable, but there’s a lot of heart in the story. It may not be the best of the genre, but a really strong one. The perfect Sunday afternoon film.
Thanks for reading! If you liked my review, please subscribe to never miss a post: