Hustle (2022) review: A heartwarming slam dunk 

Sports film Hustle based on a basketball scout who finds a talented player in the streets of Spain but struggles to get him recognised in the professional circuit. The film is now streaming on Netflix

Story

Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler), a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, gets his dream assistant coach role, but after the death of the owner, everything goes downhill.

His son takes over the entire team, and decides that they need a start player, sending Stanley back out to search for talent. He is left distraught because scouting keeps him away from his family while the new position didn’t require him to travel as much.

When the player he came to scout in Spain turns out to be injured, he finds Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez) and is immediately stunned by his talent.

Stanley takes it upon himself to make Bo the next big star of the NBA, despite the 76ers’ new owner not showing interest.

What follows is the pair’s struggles in getting him recognised and overcoming every obstacle in their way.

Performances

Adam Sandler is excellent as Stanley. Usually seen in more comical roles, this character is grounded and Sandler pulls it off with ease.

The character is haunted by incidents of his past, along with the yearning to prove himself as someone with an eye for talent who belongs in the professional circuit.

He does most of the heavy lifting, and will impress most viewers with his acting chops in this different role. There’s some humour in the narrative as well, and as expected, Sandler nails that part.

Hernangomez takes to acting like fish to water. It’s surprising how comfortable he is in his role as the insecure young player who worries about his family. The basketball skills are no suprise, considering he’s a real player.

With a host of actual basketball players being part of the cast, they all hold their own, elevating the film.

Positives

While predictable, the rags to riches story is still a touching one. It will resonate with most viewers out there. People simply love an underdog tale.

The drama juxtaposed with subtle humour makes Hustle an extremely entertaining watch. The nearly two-hour runtime passes by in a flash.

The addition of real basketball players makes the film feel authentic, unlike a lot of sports films where it hardly even looks like they’re playing the actual sport with amateur actors trying to replicate professionals.

Stanley and Bo’s relationship is sweet and heartwarming. As he slowly becomes his father figure, you can’t help being filled up with joy at each little win.

Negatives

The narrative is a bit formulaic, one that’s seen with most rags to riches films. A different storyline could have raised the film’s level even higher.

Verdict

Direct to streaming films are usually more misses than hits, but Hustle is one film that you need to put on your binge list. If not for the engaging narrative or the scintillating basketball scenes, do it for the delightful equation between Stanley and Bo.

Rating: 4/5


Also Read: Hustle (2022) summary and ending explained