Hustle ★★★

Hustle is a lightweight drama which continues Adam Sandler’s streak as a competent dramatic actor.

Stanley Sugarman (Adam Sandler) is a basketball talent scout who is feeling his age after years on the road. After his hopes of moving up to an office are dashed, he chances upon talented but rough-around-the-edges prospect Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez) on a visit to Spain. The pair face trials both on and off the court in their attempt to turn him into a top NBA player, which might be the key to Sugarman regaining his purpose and and a life changing opportunity for the young man’s family.

Sandler isn’t the fireball of energy he was in Uncut Gems, but he is a solid central presence as an weary everyman who just wants a better life for himself. His streak of recent successes shows that he can sustain a career as a dramatic actor, and since he's good at it it is probably better that he choses that path rather than returning to the likes of Hubie Halloween et al.

Hernangómez is well cast as the sports prospect; he has a laid back charisma and brings the authenticity of a professional basketball player to his performance. Robert Duvall is also good in his brief appearance as Sugarman’s mentor, although the film would be stronger if he had remained in it rather than being replaced by a one-dimensional villain.

The drama starts off feeling rather low-stakes; the first half centres on whether Sugarman will manage to move to a different job and not spend so much time travelling, which doesn’t feel like much of a premise for an entire film, and the attempt to introduce a rival for Cruz via Anthony Smith's Kermit is unconvincing. The real heart of the film comes in the second half with the developing friendship between Sugarman and Cruz, with the pair having a touching surrogate father-son relationship.

The basketball scenes are well-choreographed and tense, although they are somewhat opaque to people who aren't fans of the sport; for a layman it's hard to see what it is about Bo Cruz which makes him so good, aside from the fact that he scores a lot.

Hustle is overall a well-put-together film which is above the average run of Netflix movies. Even if the stakes feel low, it’s fun hanging out with the characters and the time passes quickly.