Hustle ★★★★

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A washed-up basketball scout discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA.

First off, I am a sucker for a good sports film, so this immediately had my interest. After seeing that Happy Madison logo and Sandler’s inclusion, there was a sense of optimism but a ton of hesitancy. Sandler has had more than a few bangers in his day, but it has been awhile since one has been so audience-accessible. His Netflix comedies are hits for a reason, but critics are never a fan (myself included). Films like Uncut Gems and The Meyerowitz Stories are fantastic, but general audiences aren’t raving about them. Hustle is a film that will work with audiences and critics alike. Off the bat, the clichés are obvious and evident. You know about where it is headed, and you understand that the standard sports biopic conventions will be included. There are montages, inspirational quotes, and plenty of basketball-related cameos. The beautiful thing is that these cameos and montages serve the film as opposed to holding it back. They are still familiar, but familiarity isn’t bad if the execution is there, and this movie is executed so well. The direction is smooth, the characters each have personalities and backstories, and the style is interesting. There may be a montage too many, but it will work with fans of the sport. It will also work with fans of a movie like Rocky or Warrior. The core relationship between Stanley and Bo is genuine, and you end up caring ahhhh the success of both. It is just a fantastic experience, from top to bottom, for fans of the sport. Non-fans may focus more on the cliches, but it is still a solid watch.

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