Adam Sandler has been making movies for Netflix since 2014, but his new project might be his best yet. The sports drama Hustle (which arrived today and is one of the best new movies to watch this week) is a hit with critics and Netflix users, earning 88% Rotten Tomatoes. (opens in a new tab) rating and an audience score of 90%. Oh, and as of Thursday afternoon, it’s been the number 1 movie in the US on Netflix, according to the service’s front page.
Sandler’s Netflix movies were poorly rated but very popular with viewers. That’s why Netflix extended its high-priced deal with its Happy Madison production banner into 2020 to produce four more movies. At the time, the streamer noted that subscribers had spent two billion hours watching his films, including The Ridiculous 6, Sandy Wexler, The Week Of and Murder Mystery (which was the service’s most popular film of 2019 ).
These titles were devastated by critics; Hubie Halloween 2020 has an RT rating of 52%. Still, Hustle earns positive notice (though not quite on the level of Sandler’s most recent theatrical work, Uncut Gems). But like that film, Hustle involves basketball, the actor’s beloved sport. It is even co-produced by LeBron James.
What is Hustle about?
Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a Philadelphia 76ers scout who travels the world in search of the next big thing. His wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), worries about his health. Stanley also dreams of getting into a coaching job, but for now he’s stuck on the road.
His final trip takes him to Spain, where he discovers an unknown streetball player named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez of the NBA). Bo is incredibly gifted, but extremely rough around the edges. Stanley decides to take a chance and train him, hoping to turn him into a gem that can shine alongside the NBA’s biggest stars.
Hustle is a classic sports underdog story. There are even sequences where Stanley makes Bo run over the hills of Philadelphia, in a nod to Rocky. It’s also a bit of a buddy comedy that pits the sarcastic scout against the brooding baller.
Hustle is getting a lot of positive feedback. Here is a summary of what the critics are saying:
Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt (opens in a new tab) calls it “satisfying in the manner of the best sports movies: a rambling tale of adversity and triumph, intelligently told”.
Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney (opens in a new tab) writes, “there is a depth of feeling and a disarming sincerity to the film that keeps you watching. Even the inevitable triumph feels pleasantly understated.”
Courtney Howard of the A.V. Club (opens in a new tab) says, “Although it follows a plot by numbers, borrowing pages from the playbooks of The Air Up There and My Giant, its compelling character drive and exhilarating technical savvy more than make up for its narrative familiarity.”
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times writes (opens in a new tab)“It’s Adam Sandler’s love letter to the game, and it’s great fun from opening tip to closing buzzer.”
Members of the public sent more glowing comments to Rotten Tomatoes (opens in a new tab). Rachel says, “Such a great movie. Great basketball. Great performances. Loved it!” and Okshaw said, “The best sports movie I’ve ever seen.”
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