Hustle isn’t groundbreaking, but it is charming. I’ll give it that.
It’s a sweet sports drama that highlights some of the beauty of raw talent and a kind of friendship that’s mostly unselfish.
Adam Sandler shines here, making it even harder for me to decide if I prefer him in more dramatic roles like this one over comedy, where he also excels. Queen Latifah, who plays his wife, doesn’t really get much to do, but it is wonderful seeing her onscreen every time she comes on. Relative newcomer, Juancho Hernangome, who plays the main lead, Bo Cruz, shines, too. A lot of the time, watching him felt like watching a real-life person go about his business and less like watching an actor do his thing, and this is good because it works. He feels natural almost every single time he’s on screen – especially during the basketball scenes, so I can’t complain.
Hustle comes together nicely, but one of its greatest weaknesses, for me, is in how it takes the easy way out in almost every facet of its storytelling. It is held back by its own self-consciousness and unwillingness to delve into tougher territories. For starters, it does little to justify its reason for bearing its chosen title; the stakes, too, never feel high enough for either Bo Cruz or Sandler’s Stanley even though we’re supposed to believe that the next major stage of their lives is tied to the success of the latter’s plan. Then there’s the climax in the third act that comes across as cheaply earned, failing to pack the kind of punch that’d have made the movie even more memorable.
It’s all these things and probably more that make Hustle fall a little bit flat for me. Luckily for it, there’s still enough charm to make it relatable, even for non-basketball fans, and that’s its greatest selling point.
My Rating: 3/5