Hustle is a new sports drama film streaming on Netflix starring Adam Sandler and Juancho Hernangómez. The first thing I want to say is that I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I had no idea what this movie was about and just decided to check it out after seeing it being featured as a new release on Netflix. Adam Sandler is infamous for his hit-or-miss comedies, and with his name attached to this project, I honestly wasn’t expecting anything great. But this just goes to show you can’t judge a movie solely based on its actors because Sandler performed wonderfully as the protagonist, Stanley Sugerman. While this isn’t a basketball movie that’s based off of some true story, the realistic way in which they do tell the story might make you think it is (I had to google this just to make sure!). It’s not a particularly flashy or bold type of movie, but it doesn’t need to be. Personally, I believe its focus on being a cozy, feel good movie made it all the more enjoyable and heartwarming.
While basketball is certainly a major aspect of the movie (heck, it’s a movie about a basketball scout and player), I really liked how it didn’t overwhelm the core story which is about redemption. I enjoyed seeing how every basketball scene wasn’t just randomly thrown in, but it seemed like it served a purpose for Bo’s (Hernangómez’s character) development. If you’re expecting this movie to be loud and noisy like an actual basketball game, I’ll stop you right there and tell you it’s not. This movie isn’t about showing off NBA stars (there are some cool cameos though!) or showcasing “show-offy” dunks, it’s about the story of a talented streetball player’s difficult journey to becoming a professional. There were a lot of behind the scenes moments that showed the audience how difficult training is and for me, it made the movie feel all the more intimate and raw. I truly loved how authentic it felt and how nothing was gimmicky.
And so what I felt the movie did so excellently on was it mostly focused on the characters and their individual stories. They wanted to show these characters as flawed but real human beings, and in my opinion, they were rather successful. For example, although Bo is extremely talented, he’s not a perfect player and the movie never tried to depict him as one. He needed a lot of coaching and training to get to where he ended up at. What the movie did care about was showing Stanley and Bo’s development as a coach and player. We got to see who they were as people – what drives them, what scares them, what defines them. We witnessed their highs and lows as they grew together, and while their highs were cheer worthy moments, their lows definitely dealt me an emotional blow. I was not expecting an emotional roller coaster ride out of this movie, but man, was it ever one.
A lot of why this movie exceeded my expectations was thanks to Sandler and Hernangómez’s performances. I thought Sandler did splendidly portraying a struggling basketball scout and while there was definitely some humour to his character, what he really delivered on was the emotional front. I’ve really enjoyed seeing him venture into other roles besides comedic ones, especially when the outcome is movies like this. He became an inspirational coach on screen and I loved seeing that positive relationship between coach and player. I’d even argue Sugerman was like a father figure to Bo – I could really sense how much he cared and wanted to help the young boy.
Of course I can’t end this review without complimenting Hernangómez as well because I felt he put on an excellent performance. If you didn’t know, he’s actually a professional Spanish basketball player. I don’t know if it’s because he’s not really an actor, but it felt like he drew from personal experiences which made his performance feel more sincere. He had some really great shots of him playing basketball and doing tricks, but I’m more so impressed by the range of emotions he was able to display. For someone who’s not a professional actor, not bad! I really enjoyed watching him as Bo and I was rooting for him till the very end.
I’m so glad I decided to give this movie a watch and that I get to share this recommendation with you. With big blockbusters taking over cinema nowadays, it’s nice to watch something smaller and more intimate. With that being said, I’ve decided my final rating for Hustle is 7.5/10. There’s just something really special and personal about the way this movie was shot and done. If you’re looking for something new and original to watch, this one’s got a good story and relatable characters. If you’re a basketball fan as well, I’m sure you’ll love all the cameos of big NBA stars, but what you’ll really fall for is the story that’s full of heart.