Adam Sandler showed that his acting skills were broader when he took on Punch Drunk Love. His performance in Uncut Gems was awarded the highest actor award of the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Hustle is part of his massive Netflix deal and is unlike the disappointments he has delivered so far. This is one of Sandler’s best films to date.
Sandler plays Stanley Sugarman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who is sent back on the road, to the dismay of his wife, Teresa Sugarman, played by Queen Latifa. A who’s-who of young and old basketball talent appear as themselves and draft prospects. Sugarman goes rogue after the new owner refuses to take on Sugarman’s draft prospect, Bo Cruz, Juancho Hernangomez. The film then focuses on Sugarman training Cruz. Like any good Philadelphia sports film, there are training montages. They do not run up the steps to the art museum, instead, it is Manayunk Hill, famous in cycling circles.
Sander plays the balance of father, coach, business manager, and shepherd. He guides his prized sheep to the draft in a few short weeks. His future as a scout, assistant coach, and general finances all rests on having a good draft result. There is no mistaking that this is a sports film, but I think it has a little more mass appeal than most. Sandler brings some of his Uncut Gems' desperation to various points of the film continuing to demonstrate his range and restraint.
I love Adam Sandler’s early work. He is a prolific actor and producer and has earned the huge fortunes Netflix bestowed on him. He bounces between dumb comedies for narrow audiences and mass appeal projects. He has the clout to bring together this cast for a passion project of his around basketball. I wish all his Netflix originals were this good.