Hustle Reviews Have Dropped, See What Critics Are Saying About Adam Sandler’s New Netflix Drama

Adam Sandler stars in Hustle.
(Image credit: Netflix)

Adam Sandler is stepping away from the comedic roles that made him so popular and reconnecting with his dramatic side in his upcoming movie on Netflix. He’s also tapping into his basketball fandom, as he joined forces with LeBron James to produce the sports drama Hustle. Sandler stars as Philadelphia 76ers scout Stanley Sugarman, who has dreams of coaching, and is working to get overseas player Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez) recruited to the NBA. Critics have screened the movie, so fans will have a better idea what to expect when Hustle becomes available to Netflix subscribers on June 8. 

The Saturday Night Live alum has impressed audiences in his dramatic roles before in films including Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Uncut Gems, making Adam Sandler’s dramatic renaissance in Hustle pretty highly anticipated. It doesn't hurt that he has a cast full of talent alongside him in Queen Latifah, Robert Duvall, Ben Foster, and a number of NBA players. Let’s take a look at how the critics enjoyed the movie, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Hustle. Eric Eisenberg rates the movie with 3 stars out of 5, saying the script doesn't stray too far outside the generic sports movie formula, but the direction and characters make up for it to the point that maybe all of Sandler's movies should be related to basketball:

For his part, Adam Sandler demonstrates actual gravitas with his turn – which is a sentence that I never thought I’d write, but it’s the reality. This isn’t a Sandler sports comedy a la The Waterboy; it’s his opportunity to demonstrate a personal love for and knowledge about the game of basketball, and that’s what really drives the best parts of Hustle. He still has jokes and generates a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, but what’s most excellent about the work is just its authenticity. Also given a dramatic backstory of lost opportunity, it’s easily one of Sandler’s most well-rounded characters and performances.

Chris Evangelista of SlashFilm rates the movie 6 out of 10, saying it's charming, even though it doesn't bring anything new to the world of sports drama. Jeremiah Zagar's direction is surprisingly energetic, and real-life NBA player Juancho Hernangómez has a stiff awkwardness that works for his character:

Sandler's latest serious turn is Hustle, a formulaic underdog sports story that still manages to charm. There are no real surprises here; nothing you haven't seen in at least a dozen other sports flicks before. Indeed, Hustle often feels like it's following in the footsteps of Rocky, or more precisely, Creed. There's the former sports player now washed up and acting as a coach. There's the exciting young star who has a world of talent and a world of personal problems. And there's a chance at redemption for everyone. It's probably no coincidence that Hustle is primarily set in the Rocky/Creed stomping grounds of Philadelphia.

David Ehrlich of IndieWire grades Hustle a B, calling the dramedy "affecting," and "immaculately made." It may not be the strongest of Adam Sandler's forays into drama, and it may not be the best redemption story ever told, but this review says its confidence puts it firmly in the game:

As you might imagine by this point, Hustle doesn’t serve up anything you haven’t seen before, but it sticks to the game plan with confidence and makes you root for Stanley and Bo — together and separately — every step of the way. Much of that stems from Sandler’s inherent likability, which has seldom been as pronounced as it is here, where it isn’t diluted by angry man-child affectations or any of the other scrims the actor often hides behind.

The reviews are all praising the direction of Jeremiah Zagar, which, along with the likeability of the main characters, seems to be making all the difference in what could just be another run-of-the-mill sports redemption story. Robert Abele of The Wrap is among those critics who also hopes to continue to see Adam Sandler evolve away from "minor-league comedy boorishness." He wrote: 

It’s the rare sports movie that refreshes the expected training montages and on-court sequences. This is where Zagar’s hiring — beyond his being a Philly native, and evoking plenty of location vibrancy — pays dividends, with his and cinematographer Zak Mulligan’s visually fleet, rhythmic treatment of athletic movement, shot-making, and competitive flare-ups carrying the same immersive punch as his depiction of childlike freedom in We the Animals.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety calls Hustle a "heart-in-the-throat basketball drama" that succeeds in part because of the real-life NBA players, but also because of the authenticity that Adam Sandler brings to the role of Stanley Sugarman:

Hustle doesn’t rewrite any rules, but the film’s wholesome seduction is that you believe what you’re seeing — in part because of the presence of players from the aging legend Dr. J to Trae Young to Kyle Lowry and several dozen more. But also because Sandler plays Stanley with an inner sadness, a blend of weariness and resilience, and a stubborn faith in the game that leaves you moved, stoked, and utterly convinced.

It seems like Adam Sandler lived up to the expectations of the critics. If you’re excited to see him in this dramatic basketball movie, you don’t have to wait long or go far. Hustle will be available for streaming starting on Wednesday, June 8 on Netflix. Be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what movies are coming soon to theaters.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.