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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.54%
Just Average: 22.99%
Pretty Crappy: 10.34%
Sucks: 3.45%

7 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Hustle & Flow
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Turns out pimping is easy-rapping about pimping is hard"
3 stars

What is it about the Sundance Film Festival that inspires critics, audiences and studio executives to go nuts over the kinds of surprisingly uninteresting efforts that they wouldn’t ordinarily give a second glance at if it was screened under less hype-infused circumstances? Sure, there are the rare occasions when the films that received the most attention turn out to be worth all the hype when seen in calmer surroundings–titles such as “sex, lies and videotape,” “The Blair Witch Project” or the current “Me and You and Everyone We Know” spring to mind–but for every one of those, there are a dozen films along the lines of “The Spitfire Grill” or “Happy, Texas,” films that won acclaim and big distribution deals during the frenzy of the festival only to sink without a trace when viewed in the cold, hard Paris Hilton-free light of day. Although it comes to town with plenty of rave reviews, the new pimping-is-easy-rapping-about-pimping-is-hard melodrama “Hustle & Flow” is closer in quality to the likes of “Happy, Texas”–it is a sluggish and sadly predictable exercise that offers viewers a stunning lead performance from Terrence Howard and precious little else of interest.

Howard plays DJay, a low-rent Memphis pimp who hustles a slightly pathetic group of $20-a-pop whores out of the back of the kind of old beater where the air conditioning is in a permanent state of disrepair. Stuck in the middle of a dead-end career and with no real prospects of rising any further on the pimp food chain, DJay plunges into a sort of mid-life crisis and tries to find something exciting in his life. In his younger days, he used to be an adequate club deejay (which is where he got his pimp name) and after a chance encounter with an old school acquaintance (Anthony Anderson) who now works as a local recording engineer, he becomes inspired to get back into music and reinvent himself as a rapper spitting out crunk-infused tales of life on the streets. When he hears that another old school friend (Ludacris), another former record-spinner who actually made it as a rapper, is coming back to town to celebrate the Fourth of July, Djay hits upon the idea of recording a demo tape that he can pass on to his old pal in the hopes that he can make it a hit.

Most of the film is dedicated to the creation of the song, eventually known as “Whoop That Trick” as Djay enlists the aid of his friends and his stable of hookers to help make his dream come true. His run-down house is transformed into a makeshift recording studio (where neighbors are bribed into cutting down on the outside noise with bags of weed) and his girls wind up making contributions that are financial, artistic (the pregnant one played by Taranji Henson turns out to have a sweet voice that is used for the central hook) and otherwise (another, played by Taryn Manning, is pressed into service when a much-needed microphone appears to be too pricey to afford by conventional means). Against all odds, the tape is finished and Djay goes off to pass it on to his former friend, only to find himself involved in a long and uncomfortable situation where his fortunes change forever over the course of a few drunken hours.

In much the same way that his character slyly and slickly proceeds to dominate the lives of nearly everyone he comes into contact with, Terrence Howard essentially dominates “Hustle & Flow” with a powerhouse performance in the central role of Djay For a few years, Howard (who can also been seen as the put-upon television director who finds himself in the middle of a couple of memorable traffic stops in the current hit “Crash”) has been one of those journeymen actors who had never quite lucked into that perfect role that would demonstrate the full range of his talents. When he came upon the script for this film, something must have clicked in him because his performance as DJay is an utter original. For such a character to be made believable, an actor has to be able to somehow make him likable and interesting while never minimizing the essential loathsomeness of what he does for a living. Howard pulls this off with extraordinary skill–instead of relying on the flashy pimp cliches that have been seen in zillions of blaxsploitation films and rap videos, he infuses his character with a genuine humanity that keeps us interested in him even when he is acting selfish and cruel. As an added bonus, he is also pretty convincing as an aspiring rapper as well; I wouldn’t be surprised if the relatively infectious “Whoop That Trick” were to become a genuine hit.

The tragic flaw of “Hustle & Flow,” however, is that writer-director Craig Brewer is himself in love with the cliches that Howard manages to successfully avoid in his performance. It quickly becomes apparent that everything that he knows about the pimping life comes from those very same movies and videos and he buys into their bad-boy mythology without displaying any ideas of his own. Instead of turning a critical eye on such things, Brewer celebrates them to the degree that he seems to be getting off on showing them without apology. He is so eager to display his bully-boy credentials that he winds up subverting his own story at certain points. For example, there is a wrenching scene in which Manning’s character finally blows up at DJay after he forces her to prostitute herself in order to score a microphone–she screams and cries and vows that she is through with doing such things for good. Fine, except Brewer can’t resist sticking in a bit during a closing montage–to explain more would blow some surprises–in which she does indeed return to it, only it is meant to be a wacky joke. As for the rap material, there is nothing on display here that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before–most notably in the genuinely stirring Eminem vehicle “8 Mile”–and the final confrontation with his now-successful cohort starts off strong and goes off in some interesting directions but Brewer has no idea how to finish what he has started so he gives us yet another tired shoot-out

Badly written, indifferently shot and with an attitude towards its female characters that even Larry Flynt might question (as a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that one of the producers is none other than John Singleton), “Hustle & Flow” is a film that by all normal standards should be relegated to the world of direct-to-video junk. However, the performance by Terrence Howard is so strong and pure and sure that I can see how it alone could bamboozle people into think that the entire movie is just as good as he is. While I can’t go along with that assessment, I can certainly understand why they would think that way because Howard’s work is one of the very best performances by an actor that you are likely to see in 2005. Too bad it is in the service of a film that isn’t quite worthy of it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11220&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/21/05 23:50:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/15/19 Anne watch it 2 stars
4/22/13 Jeff Wilder Fantastic. Howard makes himself a star. 5 stars
3/13/10 Matty P. Strong acting saves an otherwise cliche music video. 4 stars
9/03/09 robert mcdonald great movie --best i have seen in years 5 stars
10/19/08 Itsucked White persons poor analogy of the rap industry 2 stars
9/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Cast!! 5 stars
5/18/06 alvino hernandez it was perfect i wanted tobuy the soundtrack after watching it 5 stars
4/12/06 Suzz Howard deserved the Oscar; great film 5 stars
3/22/06 Annie G Everyone involved in this film deserve kudos for making these characters symphathetic! 5 stars
3/12/06 Kay Josh shut the fuck up. anyways this movie is a CLASSIC! <3 5 stars
3/11/06 Josh Standlee Rap cannot be classified as music because there is no tune and no singing. It also sucks. 1 stars
2/05/06 othree Outdated, Grimey, Can't phantom why this was even considered good 1 stars
2/02/06 katsat Graphically and powerfully depicted the redemptive power of art. Absoutely amazing. 5 stars
2/02/06 adi actors r great, thoug script could be better 5 stars
1/16/06 Jared Wilson one of my favorites of 2005 5 stars
1/15/06 Rocky Great story, totally entertaining and excellent music. I'd recommend this one to anybody 4 stars
1/11/06 sjjlw the movie was great and the performances the best especially T D Howard. We had a viewing 5 stars
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes one of the 10 best films of the year 5 stars
9/07/05 bac not a very good movie, but it showed just how good of an actor Terrance Howard is 3 stars
8/27/05 malcolm finally, a thoughtful hip-hop movie 4 stars
8/15/05 Yvonne Captivating (even when you're not a rap fan) 5 stars
8/12/05 LINDA B. BLANTON RIVITING. Terrance Howard bought DJ to life. Great Actor. 5 stars
7/31/05 krispf3 amazing. period. 5 stars
7/30/05 Kankasaur Dirty South gets its due, from pimp walk to perp walk 5 stars
7/27/05 Obi Wan Very good movie and Howard gives a hell of a performance 4 stars
7/26/05 Ty Spiceland Like Million Dollar Baby with rap 3 stars
7/25/05 Derrick Rubin Great movie. Very much one of the best in 2005 so far. 5 stars
7/25/05 Jim The Movie Freak Best Film of 2005 so far 5 stars
7/24/05 arealazzlady` i guess you just have to live in proverty to understand the film 5 stars
7/24/05 Frank Newhouse HUSTLE AND FLOW IS OFF DA CHAIN NIGGA!! 5 stars
7/24/05 danyelle wilson i think the movie is better than all dis bullshit they got out now 5 stars
7/23/05 Yolanda Hustle and Flow was the bomb. Terrance was so amazing I've always been a fan of his . 5 stars
7/23/05 Kayla Great Movie! Terrence Howard and Taranji Henson and the entire cast awesome job 5 stars
7/23/05 babs hustle down to your local theater and SEE THIS MOVIE 5 stars
7/19/05 nimrod seductive but tragically misguided exercise in redemption at the expense of women; tired. 2 stars
7/16/05 Kristina Williams whoop that trick! 5 stars
7/12/05 Corny White Wow! I haven't seen all of these clichés before. 'Everybody gotsta have a drame!' 1 stars
7/04/05 GHill The characters & their dreams have never left my mind. WoW! 5 stars
6/28/05 babynisha love the soundtrack 5 stars
3/16/05 NovelistKC Gritty, sad, hilarious & thought-provoking. Terrence Howard is AMAZING as is Taraji Henson 5 stars
2/04/05 glory I want that soundtrack!! 5 stars
1/26/05 Kathryn Hightower Absolutely amazing. Beyond wonderful acting, soundtrack, script, direction. 5 stars
1/24/05 Bill Schultz Outstanding! And I didn't like hip-hop till now.... 5 stars
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  22-Jul-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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