Hustle And The Fate of the Mid-Range Movie in 2022

The scope and scale of the Adam Sandler Netflix contract has been a recurring meme at various points through the years since he signed it. Hustle effectively asks what if that contract produced some genuinely solid dramatic material. Taking Sandler’s love of basketball and slotting it into a standard underdog sports narrative is one of those things that seems ridiculously obvious. Sandler is a Philadelphia 76ers basketball scout who is on the brink of retirement after years on the road. His discovery of a raw talent in Spain (Juancho Hernangomez) compels him to make one last push to get the kid into the NBA. They have helped by a cast filled out with several real-life NBA figures playing fictionalised versions of themselves. Que your standard sports movie story. There’s nothing revolutionary here. It’s just a ridiculously solid version of exactly the film one thinks it will be. It helps that the emotional investment and bond between Sandler’s character and his protégé is established quickly and effectively. There are some rough edges but none of the morose personal demons wallows that can impact these stories if they go too far in that direction ( see Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back.) In other words the perfect candidate for an SVOD subscription release.
This viewer has heard the argument that the film should have been released in cinemas as counterprogramming to Jurassic World: Dominion. There’s no question that in a previous pre-streaming age this would have been the case. This viewer would as the following question. How much would a film like this have been actively made theatrically in a previous life? A well-regarded adult drama that’s not necessarily exceptional or gunning for awards out of the gate faces a distinct argument for its opening to middling or disappointing box office results before finding its true home in the ancillary market and on home video. Some will say this is a perpetually bad thing. To some extent, this viewer might agree. That said the relative streaming success of movies like Hustle shows that there is quality that can migrate streaming effectively. It’s also under no pressure of getting booted out of theatrical release after 10 days thanks to the impending arrival of a generic blockbuster. If this is the film landscape of 2022. Along with certain streamers accepting wider theatrical windows for some of their releases, there’s still plenty of good mid-range mainstream material releasing weekly. It’s just unemployed the scope of platforms than in previous generations.
7/10.

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