June 9, 2022

SCREEN | Adam Sandler Lays Up 'Hustle' on Netflix

"Never back down."
Adam Sandler Jeremiah Zagar | Hustle Netflix
Happy Madison Productions / SpringHill Company
Indie filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar directs a mostly serious Adam Sandler in the formulaic but kinetic basketball drama Hustle. Playing a road-weary talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers in search of the next NBA superstar, Sandler brings his natural likability to the standard inspirational underdog sports story mixed with a healthy dose of self-doubt and loathing.

Co-starring 6-foot-9 Spanish power forward Juancho Hernangómez of the Utah Jazz as an unknown basketball prospect, we follow his efforts to make the NBA draft despite the long-shot odds under the careful guidance of Sandler's Stanley. Their chemistry carries the action with Queen Latifah and Ben Foster laying up their archetypal roles as the supportive wife figure and smarmy team owner.

Produced by LeBron James and scripted by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters, Zagar's keen eye and stylish direction move the film's energy forward with a nice pace and sense of cinematic momentum in line with its captivating basketball action. Things move quickly and gloss over the predictable story beats and expected plot developments with a graceful effort.

Sandler's enthusiasm for the material shows throughout the film. Hustle both adheres to and elevates all the hallmarks of the well-worn sports genre. Its Philly setting certainly evokes the Rocky formula with a contemporary setting to a tee. Zagar raises the typical stakes by shooting the many training montages with an electric flourish and entertaining rhythm to the athleticism on display.

Hustle is available to stream on Netflix.

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