When watching a movie such as Hustle it’s hard to see why anyone would bother to say anything negative about an Adam Sandler movie at this point since no matter how goofy he might get in some of them, the guy shows a lot of heart as well. The story shown in this movie is one that a lot of people might not be able to relate to fully but it’s still one that a person can’t help but feel is easy to understand on a few levels since sports-related movies often show how tough the sport can be on its own, but they also tend to show the human side of the business as well considering that the athletes that people root for aren’t mindless machines that are expected to produce more and more fans, which means more and more money. It’s very easy to see the materialistic side of such a movie and the representation that makes it appear that those making their way in these sports are all about the green and not the love of the sport.
But with Hustle, it’s easy to see how both sides work, and how they can oppose as well as complement one another at times since, without the players, the sport doesn’t exist, but without those that scout the players, hype them up, and bring them the kind of deals that make it worth their time to showcase their skills, there’s not a lot that either can do without the other. But the human aspect of the sport is where the heart comes from, and while it’s downplayed a lot thanks to the need to make money and keep things running, the human aspect is one of the most important since without it, the sport becomes little more than a business that cares nothing for the athletes and those that sacrifice everything to make it all work. That’s one of the feelings this movie gives, but it’s not the only one.
When Stanley Sugarman, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, is given a promise that he’ll be made the assistant coach to the team after waiting for so long, his dreams are dashed when the owner of the team, played by Robert Duvall, dies suddenly, leaving his son, played by Ben Foster, in charge. This is a story that’s been told in many different ways since the son is a horrible person that wants the flash but doesn’t bother looking for substance, while Stanley knows what to look for and what to avoid most times after many years on the road looking at players. While overseas, however, Stanley takes note of a man named Bo Cruz, who is a great streetball player and amazingly plays in work boots, as he has no other shoes. Bo lives with his mother and his daughter, and it’s kind of obvious that he’s insanely protective of both, which is seen later on. When Stanley convinces Bo to make his way to America for a tryout with the 76ers, things appear to look up, but the new owner of the team is less than enthusiastic. Bo’s first tryout doesn’t go so well, as he gets rattled too easily and starts messing up all over the court.
After a rigorous training montage, however, Stanley not only conditions Bo to avoid letting himself be rattled by trash talk, but he also shows Bo how to play the game and how to give his best effort at every turn. When he notes that Bo is still down in the dumps one day, he ends up bringing Bo’s daughter and mother to the states, which energizes the player as he begins to put up a great display in front of a gathering of coaches, agents, and many others at the NBA Combine, where the best players are invited to assess their skills and their ability so that they might be watched by those who might want to take them in the draft. Unfortunately once another player gets wind that Bo’s mother and daughter are there, he needles Bo relentlessly until Bo snaps and takes the other player to the ground. As this is one of the worst things to do in front of coaches and general managers, Bo is labeled as a violent and undesirable individual, at least until he’s given another shot.
By the end of the movie Bo is signed with the Boston Celtics, and Stanley is given the assistant coach position for the 76ers after the sister of the team’s owner steps in to fix the mess that her brother made. The understanding is that even if his team is playing against them, Stanley is still rooting for Bo and has stood at his side every step of the way. This shows in a very uplifting way that the human side of this sport is every bit as important as the business side.