Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Starring: Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster, Juancho Hernangómez, Robert Duvall, Anthony Edwards
Run Time: 117 mins
Hustle is a sports drama and represents the second feature length film to be directed by Jeremiah Zagar, following his debut We The Animals. Adam Sandler stars as Stanley Sugarman, a basketball NBA scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who is beyond the prime of his career. After a turn of events see him head to Spain, he stumbles upon an unknown but talented player in a local game called Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez). After some initial hesitation stemmed from his family arrangements, Cruz accepts Sugarman’s invitation and flies to America in an attempt to draft him into the NBA scouts. Sugarman also faces life baggage as he is consistently away from his family, his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and daughter Alex (Jordan Hull). There’s a repeated, poignant line that he has missed the last nine of his daughter’s birthdays.
Hustle doesn’t particularly stray from sports drama convention but it’s an investing and consistently entertaining drama from start to finish. After giving the performance of his career in the thoroughly unnerving Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler continues to turn his poor comedic career choices around with another excellent performance. Sandler sells the washed-up mentality of the scout but clearly still has lots of passion for the sport. When he first witnesses Cruz playing in a local pick-up game, Sandler deftly portrays Sugarman’s lifelong inspiration rushing back to him in one hit, having been sucked dry for many years.
Juancho Hernangómez is also terrific as Cruz and is given a compelling back story for why he finds himself in the situation he is initially in at the start of the film. Both Sandler and Hernangómez share an absorbing chemistry, which makes the duo easy to root for. Of the rest of the cast, Latifah isn’t given much to work with as Sandler’s wife, and the ever-versatile Ben Foster is also short-changed as Sandler’s disparaging boss.
It may not be as unpredictable as a basketball fixture, but Hustle is a well-intentioned film with a spring in its step bolstered by two great performances, even if it chooses to stick closely to convention.