Hustle Review- A far cry away from Uncut Gems
Hustle premiered on Netflix on June 8th 2022, starring Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Anthony Edwards, Ben Foster and Queen Latifah.
People either hate or love Adam Sandler and before I get into my feelings about this movie, I want you to know I am undoubtedly an Adam Sandler fan. That being said, not all of his movies were for me. You should also know, I love action and sports movies even though I do not actually watch sports in my daily life. When it comes to cinema and sports though, I love grasping onto a storyline, and Hustle does just that.
Everyone loves a come-up story, and most of the time you want it to be true, The Blind Side being a perfect example. Hustle is a quintessential come-up of two characters, Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler) and Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez) both fighting their way toward their ultimate dream job. Stanley has always wanted to be a basketball coach but instead has found himself scouting for many years. While unfortunate circumstances happen to Stanley regarding his dream coaching position, it ultimately comes down to the new owner of the 76ers seeing Stanley as too valuable of a scout to lose. The carrot dangled in front of Stanley is finding someone so good, that he will not be needed as a scout anymore and instead can transition to coaching.
Stanley goes to Spain in his efforts to find another game-changing player and serendipitously sees Bo. Clearly out of place with construction boots Bo hustles another player out of his money and does it with flair. Of course, that begins when Stanley and Bo journey to both live out their dreams; Bo reaching for a dream he never even thought was possible: NBA player. Sometime between the uphill battle (both literally as Bo runs uphill each morning and figuratively as Stanley fights to get Bo recognized) as the viewer, you start to want this for both characters. Stanley is a good person, he seems like he genuinely cares about Bo. Bo, while quiet, clearly has his own struggles that he carries and deeply wants to succeed for both himself and his daughter.
Is this an award-winning movie? No, of course not. However, it absolutely pulls your focus, makes you root for both of them, and if anything has you wishing that this was based on a true story. There is humor peppered throughout the movie although not as much as you would probably expect. As well as feel-good moments and basketball hall of fame appearances, including Julius Erving aka. Dr. J, who even I was able to recognize. There are times when it is a bit predictable, we know Bo is going to get a shot early on, and we know based on the length of the movie that he is going to blow it at first (possibly more than once). There is also the stereotypical Rocky and Creed II workout scene where Bo evolves over a number of weeks to get in the best shape of his life; it even pays homage in a sense to Rocky when Bo is climbing the stairs. However, it is part of what makes it enjoyable to watch.
The actual basketball part, I cannot tell you if it was “good” or “bad” compared to watching real NBA plays. I can however tell you it was fast-paced, easy to follow, and fun to see Bo succeed as well as fail. It was pure entertainment. Even the arguments Bo gets in with Kermit Wilts (Anthony Edwards), were an interesting mix of basketball and competitive male adrenaline.
What didn’t I love? Teresa Sugerman, played by Queen Latifah, has an extremely minor role. I don’t think it would have bothered me if his wife was played by another actress. However, due to seeing Queen Latifah, knowing how large of a personality she usually has, I was bothered by how little I felt her impact on the movie was. She does bring a warmness to the family dynamic but there was not enough depth. Vince Merrick (Ben Foster), the antagonist of sorts, running the 76ers after his dad passes reminded me a bit of Trouble with the Curve antagonist Phillip (Matthew Lillard). Different personalities but the same feeling of “your track record is great, you helped build this team, but you are shit- know your place”. However, you name the movie, and we could probably find some comparisons to the person in charge.
In my perspective, what is more unique than the stubborn and half-incompetent boss is Adam Sandler’s role. While he loves playing relatable characters usually they have a much heavier comedic undertone. What worked so well in this movie is that Sandler does not try to make his role more than it is. He plays a relatable and well-intentioned guy who lives in Philadelphia and is just looking to make an impact on the sport. Watch the movie; let me know what you think. I do not think you will regret it. I hope that like me, you will just be wishing Bo’s come-up was in fact real and if so, you know it was worth about two hours of your time.
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