Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movie Hustle Apparently Borrowed A Lot From A Classic Martin Scorsese Movie During Filming

by Adam Sandler Hustle has been making quite an impression since arriving on Netflix last week. The basketball-centric drama offers solid performances from the cast, shrewd direction from Jeremiah Zagar, and genuine respect for the sport. It is therefore not surprising that the film has received rave reviews from critics. Those who watch sports movies regularly more than likely noticed that this one uses common story beats associated with the genre (workout montages, an endgame of fate, etc.). While these elements are more than apparent, some may not have realized that Zagar also borrowed heavily from a certain Martin Scorsese film.

While Jeremiah Zagar tapped into some familiar (but effective) tropes, he explained to CinemaBlend ReelBlend podcast that he realized something very early on. He revealed that there was no exact cinematic model to rely on to create the kind of story he wanted to tell. He and his team watched basketball footage but, interestingly, they also started watching boxing movies. And if you’re familiar with the work of Martin Scorsese, you can probably guess which of his films was instrumental in this case:

There was no model. There was no perfect basketball imagery. We watched a lot of documentaries. We watched like Dr J at Rucker Park and we watched a lot of street ball games. And then we started watching boxing movies. And boxing movies are beautifully photographed. And that’s because it’s simple in terms of action, right? It’s like one guy against another guy. It’s a one-on-one. And the camera can easily get inside the ring with them, allowing you to get closer to the action. Which, you know, gives the camera a huge opportunity to do some really special things. When Zack [Mulligan] and I saw Raging Bull, we were watching Raging Bull and we saw what Scorsese was doing and how he was developing the fighting language in fighting. We started saying, ‘Okay, this is a role model for us. It’s a way we’d like to shoot basketball.

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

(Image credit: United Artists)

Martin Scorsese’s 1980 masterpiece tells the real-life story of Jake LaMotta, a talented boxer whose self-destructive tendencies negatively impact his professional and personal life. Robert De Niro starred as LaMotta, and for his efforts he won the Best Actor Oscar. angry bull is unique among sports dramas for a number of reasons, but one of them is that it’s shot in a way that really makes viewers feel like they’re in the middle of the action.

Jeremiah Zagar and DP Zack Mulligan wisely drew inspiration from the acclaimed biopic, and it shows in their film. Every time Juancho Hernangómez’s Bo Cruz works his magic on the pitch, the camera closes in on him. It’s one of the main reasons his run-ins with Anthony Edwards’ Kermit Wilts and others are so compelling to watch. (Those same camera techniques were also evident during the memorable scene that sees Cruz donning construction boots.)

Chances are, Jeremiah Zagar will be looking to use similar filming methods on his future productions, but his next movie won’t necessarily have anything to do with sports. Even if it is, he would still like cast one of the NBA stars he worked with on his latest, and it’s not Anthony Edwards.

Hopefully the filmmaker will make another sports movie at some point. Honestly, I’d be up for just about anything he planned after seeing his work in Hustle, yet. And if he wanted to take more inspiration from Martin Scorsese going forward, I wouldn’t be mad either.

Hustle is now available to stream (opens in a new tab) with a Netflix subscription. Keep an eye on CinemaBlend’s schedule new movie releases to stay up to date with the great movies that await you.

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