SYNOPSIS: After discovering a once-in-a-lifetime player with a rocky past abroad, a down on his luck basketball scout (Adam Sandler) takes it upon himself to bring the phenom to the States without his team's approval. Against the odds, they have one final shot to prove they have what it takes to make it in the NBA.When young loner Anna is hired as the gestational surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s who wants a child, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.
When Adam Sandler acts in a serious drama without all his goofy friends, you know you need to watch it. Remember Uncut Gems and The Meyerowitz Stories? A true basketball fan himself, he teams up with basketball legend LeBron James to produce Hustle, a not-to-missed sports movie on Netflix.
Ex-player Stanley Sugarman (Sandler) works as a basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. He is on the road most of the time leaving his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and teenage daughter (Jordan Hull) alone. Sugarman longs for a coaching job which 76ers’ owner, Rex (Robert Duvall in a cameo) actually promises him. Unfortunately, Rex passes away shortly and his douchebag son, Vince (Ben Foster) forces Stanley to be back on the road to look for the next big player for his team before he can get back his coaching job.
Out of sheer luck, Stanley spotted Bo Cruz (real-life basketball player Juancho Hernangomez) in a street match in Spain. He sees the potential in Bo and decides to bring him to Vince only to have him reject outright for his chequered past. Despite the setback, Stanley is determined to use his own money to groom Bo and get him into the big league.
One of the biggest flaws of Hustle is that it’s filled with plenty of predictable story tropes which of course include training montages, an underdog story, a deeply affecting kinship. Yet it’s also these familiar themes that keeps the fire in Hustle burning. There isn’t a single dull moment and Stanley occasionally slips in some wry humour liked Bo spending $9 on Pringles or just eating a single bite of his room service order.
Sports fans will also love all the basketball action movie captured in the flick be it on the streets or an actual basketball court. In other words, Hustle operates sweetly on both sides. The basketball action is cool and those going for the drama will be pleased with the heartwarming interaction between Stanley and Bo once the action slows.
Adam Sandler turns in another brilliant dramatic performance as a man with a tragic past and still craving to redeem himself. His character is immensely likeable and with Queen Latifah playing his supportive wife, their onscreen magic is kind of a fresh breathe. Hernangomez while not being a professional actor puts in a more than decent job as Bo Cruz, a man desperate to provide for his young daughter and mother. The movie also features plenty of NBA stars though it’s not really an issue if you aren’t familiar with any of them. Sandler remains the only star in our opinion.
While personally not a sports fan, Hustle is a fascinating watch due to Sandler’s engaging presence. There are definitely lots to admire here despite the usual sports clichés. For us, this might be easily be Netflix’s best original title of the month.
Review by Linus Tee