Wednesday 29 June 2022

REVIEW: Hustle (2022) - Starring Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster and Juancho Hernangómez

Review by Jon Donnis
I genuinely cant remember the last rags to riches sports film I have seen, so when I saw "Hustle" pop up, I thought I would give it a look, plus it stars Adam Sandler who I happen to think is great.

Now I am not a big basketball fan, and other than a few very big names, (Shaq, Lebron and Magic Johnson) I couldn't really tell you who was who, and which team was the best. So I come to this film purely as a casual viewer, and not a fan of the sport.

Adam Sandler stars as NBA scout Stanley Sugerman, who scouts for the Philadelphia 76ers, his life mainly consists of him being on the road constantly looking for the stars of tomorrow. While the owner of Philadelphia 76ers Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall) likes him, Merrick's son and co-owner Vincent (Ben Foster) seems to clash with Stanley on a philosophical level when it comes to the game.

Due to the toll that the travel is having on his home life, Rex promotes Stanley to assistant coach, which means he can spend more time at home with his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and his daughter Alex (Jordan Hull), but just as he does that Rex passes away and his son is left in charge. Three months later and Vincent demotes Stanley back to the scout position, and sends him overseas to find a new star for the team.

While in Spain he struggles to find a player that is good enough, so one evening Stanley goes to watch a local pick-up game, (just random street players, playing for money etc). It is at this game that Stanley spots a young Hustler (hence the name of the film). He manages to follow the kid home, and manages to convince him he is not crazy by facetiming with Dirk Nowitzki (a former German professional basketball player who is a special advisor for NBA team The Dallas Mavericks.) This convinces the young man that Stanley is who he claims to be, that being a Scout for the 76ers.

The young man is Bo Cruz (Played by real life NBA star Juancho Hernangómez), Stanley sits down with Bo, his mother Paola and his young daughter, who tell him his life story.

Stanley arranges for Bo to have a workout with members of the Spanish national team, to see how he would cope with professional players. Instantly impressed Stanley rings up the 76ers front office and urges them to sign Bo immediately, but Vincent is not interested.

Stanley decides to bring Bo to the US and convinces Bo that he will get signed if he just goes with him. Bo agrees.

From this point on the story hits full gear. The highs and lows of trying to make it, the stresses of missing your child, and the pressure put upon you to succeed. We get training montages, encouraging music, a big rival, the works. And if you are a fan of basketball the film is full of recognisable people, from current NBA players, to coaches, commentators, and former players.

Adam Sandler gives one of his better performances, and although there is funny moments in the film, this is not a straight comedy as you might expect, yes Sandler does get to shout a bit, but instead of it being done for laughs, he is showing genuine emotion of his character.

Juancho Hernangómez does a good job as Bo, but you can tell he is not a trained actor, however that in many ways helps the character seem more convincing, sometimes in films like this, the underdog character, the rags to riches character can come across as too polished, and that just reminds you, it is just an actor playing a role, but Juancho Hernangómez really makes you believe, and you find yourself wondering how much of what you are saying is the character and how much is the real man.

Is the film cliche? Yes of course it is. Is it predictable? Yes completely, from reading the synopsis, you already know how the film will finish, but that doesn't matter as you will enjoy the ride. 

The Good
Adam Sandler delivers his best performance in years, and reminds the viewer what a great talent he is. Juancho Hernangómez comes across as genuine throughout, and if you love basketball you will really love this film.

The Bad
A little long at 1h 55m, and Queen Latifah seemed like a strange person for the roll of Stanley's wife, and she hardly does anything in the film other than cheer them on. 

Great film for basketball fans and non fans alike, if you enjoy a good sports film, then this is worth a shot.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hustle and score it a very strong 9/10

Out Now on Netflix