Hustle review: Adam Sandler and LeBron James collaborate on Netflix Drama

Adam Sandler plays an NBA scout with unfulfilled dreams in this redemption saga from “We the Animals” director Jeremiah Zagar.

Adam Sandler truly, truly He loves basketball, and in the post-“Meyerowitz Stories” era – he also seems to be interested in making good films. At the very least, he is no longer actively opposed to the idea. with “AcceleratesThese two passions come together (repeatedly) in a drama that is rooted, poignant, and immaculately crafted, with more involvement with Jerry Maguire and The Way Back than any of the other Happy Madison productions. Netflix.

Albeit a little short of those other films by opting for easy layouts rather than more ambitious field goals, “Hustle” still drives the network strong enough to sound like the second coming of Madison 23 Productions, the short-lived subsidiary that He created Sandler for his more serious business (and then euthanized after the failures of “Reign Over Me” and “Funny People”).

It’s also SpringHill’s top LeBron James and Maverick Carter movie so far — even better than Space Jam: A New Legacy, if you can believe it — and a rare mid-budget Netflix feature that doesn’t pay off as if it’s been pieced together by an algorithm, even If you assume the cadence of the core streaming content as it dodges during the fourth quarter. “Hustle” may not be the greatest redemption story ever told about second chances, third jobs, and hard work to conquer your worst inclinations, but the movie holds enough guts for its convictions to feel like it has skin in its game.

That courage goes back to the decision to hire “We the Animals” director Jeremiah Zagar rather than outsource some public studio hack to the bench, and it pays off from the first shot (a cold, fuzzy thrust that screams, with all due respect: “We’re so far from ‘Hubie’). Halloween.”). One look at Stanley Sugerman dangling from Sandler dangling through the bowels of the Serbian basketball court — the last stop in the Philadelphia 76ers’ never-ending quest to search the world for a tall new talent — is all we need to know. be somewhere else.

In Stanley’s case, “Somewhere Else” was always in the house with the wife and teenage daughter they’d never seen (Queen Latifah plays Teresa Sugerman with enough warmth and charisma to offset the character’s “Stoic” cliché and make you happy that Jennifer Aniston was a one-time health scratcher). But there is a vague element of masochism in Stanley’s work – he is missing out on the self-hatred atmosphere of someone who thinks he deserves to suffer for his sins and eats KFC from his bag even though the 76 people fly to him in business class. “You’re killing yourself,” says a friend upon seeing Stanley’s last meal. “That’s the idea,” in response (Will Fitters and Taylor Mattern’s screenplay is often raw to the bone despite the increasingly adopted construction of the story).

And just when it seems like Stanley might be pardoned from his shadowy mistakes in the past — just when the lovable owner of the 76ers (Robert Duvall, casting his long shadow with a short cameo) gives our man the assistant coaching job he’s always wanted and does everything his longitudinal dreams come true — everything goes sideways Stanley is left at the mercy of his old boss’s eldest son (the good and the obnoxious Ben Foster) who sends him off straight on the road. Stanley’s only return ticket? Revealing a potential NBA star that no one else knows about, bringing him back to the United States for the combined draft, and tempting the exciting new owner to believe he was his feat.

The first task proves quite easy, as Stanley runs across a penniless 6’9 builder named Bo Cruz at a street football game in Spain (played by Utah Jazz strongman Juancho Hernangomez, who has the face of a model, wingspan of a petite pterodactyl, and a natural presence on The screen is for someone who has never acted before, which suits his character’s naivety just fine). The rest…not so much. Guided by the worthy training montage of “Doctrine,” a sense of the slow building of shared baggage and mutual trust, the shit-eating haters that force Stanley and Beau into a two-man team.

As you might imagine at this point, “Hustle” doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before, but it sticks to the game plan with confidence and makes sure you encourage Stanley and Beau – together and separately – at every step of the game. road. Much of that stems from Sandler’s inherent fascination, which is seldom as evident as it is here, not mitigated by angry man-child influences or any of the other squabbles the actor often hides.

Stanley is just a decent guy who struggles to beat his own demons — “Men in their fifties don’t have dreams,” Cracked said, “they have nightmares and eczema” — and not let others beat him up in a one-on-one game he’s been playing against himself since his own days as a soccer star. Possible basket (that Sandler never stepped onto the field is a missed opportunity in a movie that seems to be heading toward its own Yoda takes out the lightsaber at the end of “Attack of the Clones” Moment). Sandler provides just enough of the energy of a disgruntled Class A boss and tossed zingers to keep a movie that makes up in his character for what he lacks in red meat.

Stanley’s heart-wrenching backstory is so sweetly unraveled that ‘Hustle’ seems almost afraid of him, and his family begins to sense the reverse engineering of their plots as the movie clumsily moves around them down the court (I’ve never even seen anything). attempt “Deus ex Dr. J” before), but Zagar’s steady hand extracts a lot of juice from the simplest dynamics.

If the relationship between Stanley and Beau isn’t much deeper than that between Billy Crystal and Georgie Morian in “My Giant,” then what at all is? It doesn’t hurt that Hernangómez is easily able to evoke the unique disintegration of the overseas athlete, or that the combined strength of the Sandler and James star has paved the way for a Hall of Fame-worthy support team to NBA legends past and present – Hernangómez lends former teammate Anthony Edwards intense credibility to the role Poe’s foe, even if the movie dropped the ball on his bow—or that Zagar, a native of Philly, shot the south side of town with a greater sense of ruthless romance than the “silver Linings Playbook” brought to upper Darby and the city’s western suburbs.

Only during Endgame does “Hustle” lose heart, as the film’s most enduring tension — the tug of war between its potential as a legitimately elite sports drama and its purpose as a widely entertaining piece of Netflix content — fades into a series of predictable rhythms that It tricks you toward an unexpected ending only to scrape the last few edges the story has left. This prolonged disregard for the ending is especially disappointing at the end of the movie that takes a few great plays to join the likes of “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Uncut Gems” in the first breath of why Sandler is so much better than years of “execution” might suggest. . If he continues to work that hard, the same man who once symbolized Netflix’s commitment to the mediocre could eventually turn out to be the player’s greatest choice.

B degree

“Hustle” opens in select theaters Friday, June 3. It will be available to stream on Netflix starting Wednesday, June 8.

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