Hustle (2022) Film Review

Hustle still

Ok, we got it. We know Adam Sandler’s managed to redeem himself and drift past his questionable films and make a name for himself in the dramatic territory. His performances are grounded, almost too honest and up to a point, kind of tragic. His characters have the worst luck in the world, and only sometimes they’re able to overcome what seem like circumstances appointed by God. Or the Devil.

In Jeremiah Zagar’s Hustle, the Jewish comedian from Brooklyn faces old age and the burnout that sometimes comes with it. He’s an international scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, and he lives his life on the road. This causes him to be estranged from his family. But alas, the team owner has put a stop to this and determined Stanley has to be an assistant coach from now on. 

However, the team owner and Stanley’s mentor passes away, leaving the team in the hands of his son. He’s a horrible businessman who commands Stanley to get back on the road again to look for the next big star for the team. Stanley arrives in Spain and finds the guy in an urban pick-up game. Bo Cruz now has the chance to turn his life around and be the player he has always meant to be.

This is when Hustle really begins. Stanley’s reborn without intention as he finds the light in a job he sincerely didn’t want. His motivation for turning Cruz into a surefire NBA draft doesn’t come from honor. It comes from his weariness first, and then he actually sees the talent of a young player whose anger makes him do stupid stuff. The dynamic in their relationship stems from the fact that Cruz doesn’t know it’s all over for Stanley. This is the last move of his life as he’s placed a bet he can’t afford. 

In terms of sports movies, Hustle complies with the formula. In fact, it isn’t based on a true story but the screenwriters stay down to Earth with their story and never decorate the story with impossible wins, or a climactic third act. This is a story about endurance. Only sometimes it comes late, and sometimes you just have to lower your standards to find your true place in the game. 

Hustle is a very sweet story about endurance. But also about faith, the one that only comes if you believe in the impossible and follow your dreams. But it’s not unrealistic. Sandler’s character and his performance have never been more real, and even if you think the film’s a basketball fairy tale, just see the ending. The one that doesn’t necessarily end the best way for both of them. I’m not into seeing “messages” in films, but if there were one in Hustle, I’d say it’s about friendship spawning from improbable places.

Sandler is one of those actors that doesn’t need to be nominated for anything to make us believe he’s a fantastic performer in roles that are specifically for him. The irony is not anyone can do comedy, but his comedic roles are so generic that it seems anyone can do them with just the right amount of money. Now, Stanley Sugerman? I can’t see anyone but Sandler playing the unlucky scout who finds gold and a friend in an unexpected place.

Federico Furzan on InstagramFederico Furzan on Twitter
Federico Furzan

Founder of Screentology. Member of the OFCS. RT Certified Critic
Dog dad.