Hustle (2022) review – a bonafide crowd-pleaser

June 6, 2022
M.N. Miller 1
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service
3.5

Summary

Adam Sandler’s Netflix film Hustle is a bona fide crowd-pleaser.

3.5

Summary

Adam Sandler’s Netflix film Hustle is a bona fide crowd-pleaser.

This review of the Netflix film Hustle (2022) does not contain spoilers. 

This Netflix Adam Sandler movie is an honest-to-God, genuine crowd-pleaser. Here is a sports movie that is always conscious of staying in the moment rather than looking forward or back. That credit and sensuality is brought to this against all odds sports tale by director Jeremiah Zagar, a man whose critical darling of a film, We the Animals (be on the lookout for the Raúl Castillo cameo), had the determination in every view and feeling that you felt immersed in the character’s experience no matter the outcome. That’s why Hustle works so well. There is never a moment you are mindful of this being a typical Sandler/Netflix tandem. Or, for that matter, the gravity of the situations that play out in scenes of potentially life-changing stardom.

Hustle (2022) follows Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler), a former star guard at Temple University. He injured his hand one drunken night in school. Stan saves his best friend and star player (played by Kenny “The Jet” Smith) and never plays again. Stan is a grinder. He is married to his wife Teresa (Queen Latifa), and he hasn’t seen his daughter (Jordan Hall) on her birthday in nine years. However, he has the respect of the Philadelphia 76ers owner Rex (the legendary Robert Duvall) and his daughter Kat (SNL’s Heidi Gardener). The son, Vin (Leave No Trace’s Ben Foster), is another matter. When Sugerman and Vin butt heads, the veteran scout backs off arguing against drafting the German Michael Jordan. Rex pulls him aside to tell him never to do that again. Why? Well, that’s because he earns a promotion as an assistant coach.

The only issue is the job doesn’t last long because Rex passes away, and Vin takes him off the bench. He is far too valuable in scouting, he tells him. However, he will put him back on the court if Stan can find that one player to turn them into a winner. Out of pure luck (and movie cliche magic), Stan stumbles upon a twenty-two-year-old phenom named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez). The only question is if Stan can convince the brass that Bo is the player to put them over the top and put Stan back on the bench where he belongs.

This is one of Sandler’s better performances. Not just because he is believable as a weathered basketball man still trying to live his dream, but he never makes the film about himself. Yes, Sandler has his charming moments, but it is understated when he tries to be funny. Even a bit deadpan. You won’t see a cameo from Rob Schneider’s Townie or Steve Buscemi’s Wiley. Sandler lets a moment breath, listening instead of his usual comic shtick or even the polar opposite of his best performance in Uncut Gems, where his Howard Ratner was a fast-talking and practically charmless annoyance to anyone around him.

Netflix’s Hustle has an interesting mix of writers here. You have Will Fetters (A Star is Born) pedigree and Taylor Materne’s (The Longest Week) experience in writing, marketing, and producing NBA 2K video game franchises. The film has a genuine authenticity, with a plethora of current NBA stars and legends like Julius Erving. We should also mention Hernangómez, who gives a solid, stoic performance as Cruz. If you told me he had limited acting experience, I would have had no idea.

Hustle dabbles in the sports tropes, tapping into Philadelphia sports film lore and running up hills and stairs. There is also a scene where Sugerman’s daughter solves access problems by having a viral video. This story tool has developed into a modern-day trope and is being overused lately. But you cannot deny the overall effectiveness here of Hustle as a whole. It isn’t easy to create a great sports movie that is fictional because the built-in stakes are never as authentic as they appear. Here, Sandler’s turn and Zagar’s ability to infuse his trademark urgency and exultation (and Dan Deacon’s understated score in the third act climax) make Hustle elevated studio escapism.

What did you think of the Netflix film Hustle (2022)? Comment below. 

You can watch this film with a subscription to Netflix. 

1 thought on “Hustle (2022) review – a bonafide crowd-pleaser

  • June 16, 2022 at 4:41 am
    Permalink

    The ending was a bit of a double edge for me…. Spoiler alert. Love that Bo did not go to the 76ers but feel Stan sold out by going back .

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