Some body besides the Independent Spirit Award Committee (though God Bless Your souls) please recognize what PT Anderson saw TWO DECADES AGO (Hello?) in Punch Drunk Love: Adam Sandler is a legitimate dramatic actor. I promise not to gush too much about who I feel are cinematic masters (Safdie Brothers), since Hustle is still no Uncut Gems.
BUT….still Hustle belongs in that ever important camp of Driveways, Peanut Butter Falcon, in that the film ends and you feel great. And guess who showed up in acting support, Robert DuVall, still looking good!
I’m a sucker for basketball stories having grown up in the Western New York town of Perry, where b-ball ruled. We won the State Championship and us average Jills and Joes would play ‘Corners’ during lunch recess, trying to prove that we, too, could hit the 3 pointers. This continued once I went to The House that Lanier Built, St Bonaventure. So sure, I have a bias.
Yet I think even tennis fans would appreciate the competitive spirit of the film and the newbie screenwriter Taylor Materne and the not so new guy Will Fetters give homage to Rocky, especially appropriate since for the Philadelphia setting. Like Uncut Gems, real basketball stars and coaches are employed perfectly. Is this a tad formulaic? Sure, but aren’t all stories at this point, hence the nadir of a lot of our movie industry?
Relatively new director, Jeremiah Zagar was forecast, again by the smartest film award committee Ind. Spirit Awards, as “Someone to Watch” in 2019. Except for an overly long montage in the middle of the film, his direction is spot on. The soundtrack is full of energizing rap which I’ll be sure to tread water to next time I’m in the pool.
I believe this is a better film at its heart than Top Gun: Maverick, but the history and anticipation of the sequel plus the technical aspects make this comparison ridiculously moot. I’m just saying, Sandler and Utah Jazz’s own Juancho Hernangomez belong in a two on two on par with Cruise and Teller.