To many, Adam Sandler is an actor, comedian and producer, but his loyal followers likely know that he’s also a massive basketball fan. He's a skilled player, who's hooped it up with some of the NBA's best and has even played with fans on occasion. With this, he’s been channelling that love into some of his projects over the past few years, specifically The Safdie Bros.’ Uncut Gems, in which he starred alongside hall of famer Kevin Garnett. Now, Sander is prepping the release of his newest basketball film, the Lebron James-produced Hustle. And based on the first trailer released by Netflix, it’s definitely not a comedy.
The film centers on Adam Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, who dreams of becoming an NBA head coach. The weary sports devotee spends his days searching for potential talent in different parts of the world. And in his travels, he happens upon a young man named Bo Cruz (portrayed by actual NBA professional player NBA player Juancho Hernangómez) in Spain. The troubled athlete (who’s also a father) shows true potential on the court, and Stanley seems set on getting him to the states so that he can enter the draft.
As you’d expect, the road to professional sports glory isn’t going to be easy for the two, as they must both overcome the hurdles that come with professional sports. There’s also the matter of their family obligations, which can be marred by the demands of the sports industry. And based on what we see here, Stanley’s relationship with his wife, Teresa (played by Queen Latifah), has suffered in some respects as a result of his work.
There have been plenty of underdog sports movies over the years, but it’s hard to deny just how compelling this film looks. Director Jeremiah Zagar, a Philadelphia native, seems to have taken great care in depicting his hometown and emphasizing the basketball grind, if the trailer is any indication. Zagar also has a talented cast sitting on his bench, as Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangómez and Queen Latifah are joined by Robert Duvall, Heidi Gardner, Kenny Smith, Anthony Edwards and real-life 76er Tobias Harris. It’s an eclectic mix of characters but one that I wouldn’t cast doubt upon.
Another aspect of this that I find exciting is the obvious: it marks yet another dramatic role for Adam Sandler. The star has made us laugh plenty of times through iconic comedies like Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy and Billy Madison. However, let’s not forget that he’s also more than held his own in dramas like Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and Spanglish. It’s always great to see him flex his dramatic acting muscles, and I hope he continues to do it more of these kinds of projects moving forward.
Hopefully, we'll be able to chalk up Hustle as a win for the sports movie genre. It has the necessary pieces to be successful, but we’ll just have to wait and see and if it ends up grabbing the #1 spot. On Netflix’s Top 10 trending list and not in this year’s NBA Draft, I mean.
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