Hustle ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
A basketball scout discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA. Available to watch on Netflix.
I think you’ve probably guessed by now that being a typical movie nerd, prevents me from also being a sport obsessed. Given the choice I’d always pick a day in a dark cinema, rather than even just an hour in a gym.
Indeed my relationship with sports in general has never been a particularly strong one: in my youth I must have tried all sort of activities and sports looking for the right one (tennis, athletic, karate, football, volleyball… and so on) and I’ve always found myself quitting after a few months. I haven’t got the patience, nor the interest.
All this long preamble is to tell you that basically I don’t go out actively seeking sport movies to watch and when I do, most of them leave me rather cold.
There are some obvious exceptions of course: Rocky, The Fighter, Field of Dreams, Karate Kid, Senna, Rush (in no particular order), films where “sport” only serves as the background to the more interesting drama taking place.
Hustle, the latest film from Netflix starring Adam Sandler, falls into this category.
For many the name Sandler alone is enough to make them squirm and turn off. Many still consider his filmography as the “pit of the unwatchable”. Who can blame them, many of his comedies hardly register above the ‘mediocre’ on Rotten Tomatoes.
However if you have been paying attention, you might have spotted a few hidden gems here and there, particularly in the last few years. In 2019 his Uncut Gems was an incredibly tense tour-de-force, in which he was able to show his acting chops like rarely before. In fact many think his performance should have earned him at least a nomination at the Oscars.
Now, three years later, Hustle turns out to be a perfect vehicle for him to express his sweet and likeable everyman persona (he is really charming in this film), while at the same time to showcase some of his best acting to date.
In Hustle Sandler plays Stanley Sugarman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, who spends his life travelling around the word looking for the next star in basketball. In Spain he comes across Bo Cruz, a streetball player with a troubled past who plays like a god.
The film is certainly not re-inventing the wheel, in fact the parallels with Rocky and many others are difficult to miss, but it still manages to spin the old familiar tropes of the underdog story into something that resonates and keeps you hooked even if you, like me, don’t know anything about basketball and couldn’t really care much either.
And for all those who are able understand and appreciate the game of basketball better than a profane person like me, this will be a great experience as they’ll be able to spot the huge number of cameos appearances from A-list stars.
But what makes this work, despite your knowledge (or lack of it) of basketball, is that underneath, it is actually an inspiring, feelgood and unexpected crowd-pleaser with a charming and engaging performance at its centre. What’s not to like.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Hustle is available to watch on Netflix.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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