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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 David Cornelius

"Fine performances, gritty look, ridiculous message."
2 stars

I want to like “Hustle & Flow” for its fine performances, its gritty look, and its daring refusal to glamorize prostitution and the rap industry. But I want to hate “Hustle & Flow” for its unwillingness to shake off the clichés of rap culture - after all, while pimping is deglamorized here, we still get a pimp/drug dealer as our hero.

It’s a curious rut. It’s a reminder that the hip-hop community can be all-too single-minded at times. The film, written and directed by Craig Brewer, is not afraid to make its central character unlikable, nor is it afraid to have him yearn for redemption outside the criminal life. But the hero’s redemption here comes only in the form of dreams of becoming a rap star. Are those the only two choices out there? Pimp or rapper? Couldn’t we see the tale of a drug dealer who longs to set things straight and becomes, oh, let’s say, a janitor?

This is moot, I suppose, for this is the film we’re given. So let’s move on to the upside of the movie, namely the performances. Terrence Howard had been duly praised for his work here as DJay, the pimp-turned-wannabe-rapper, and such praise is well deserved. Howard’s character is both engaging and despicable; we want to loathe him, but we can’t turn away. Howard finds a lyrical smoothness to DJay’s voice that draws us in.

Supporting Howard, we find Taraji P. Henson, Taryn Manning, and Paula Jai Parker as the three hookers who live with Djay (Henson, as a pregnant whore, is particularly noteworthy); Anthony Anderson (in a surprisingly sharp turn) as a small-time record producer; DJ Qualls as his assistant; and Ludacris as the hometown rapper who went big and sold out. There’s not a mediocre performance in the bunch, as they all keep us watching.

But watching what? While I admire Brewer for making DJay’s life as ugly as possible, by the time he gets around to rapping “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” it’s impossible to sympathize. Oh, poor guy, having difficulties subjugating women and forcing them into a life of sexual slavery? Yeah, real sorry for ya, pal. (Oh, but you only verbally, not physically, abuse your women. Well, that must make you a saint. Whatever.)

On the musical side of things, the plotline that follows DJay building a cheap recording studio in his bedroom (fast food drink holders stapled to the walls act as soundproofing tiling) provides a fascinating look into the creation of an underground hip-hop track - the scene where Anderson and Qualls, having stumbled upon a catchy hook, shoo everyone from the room so they can edit is a successful portrait of artists in action. Ignore the dopey messages the lyrics hold (and the fact that the songs themselves are pretty lousy), and these scenes can suck you in.

It’s a shame, then, that by the film’s final act, the entire thing collapses under its lack of imagination. Brewer falls back on the very rap clichés he set out to avoid. DJay’s confrontation with Ludacris’ character begins well enough, revealing that the music industry isn’t as wonderful as it looks in your dreams. But then Brewer runs out of ideas. The finale is a series of scenes we’ve seen in countless movies before, generic rapper thuggery, and the final message negates the rest of the movie. Redemption won’t set you free, the movie winds up telling us, but a hit single will. For a movie that works so hard to break down the dreams of hip-hop stardom, the finale feels like it was carted in from another movie.

It’s a final act that’s so problematic that it eliminates my struggles with the film. Don’t have to decide whether the pimp hero worship can be trumped by grittiness if the story eventually crumbles. Brewer’s failures in the last thirty minutes overwhelm everything he got right in the first ninety, and by the closing credits, we could really care less just how hard it is anywhere for a pimp.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11220&reviewer=392
originally posted: 01/05/06 14:30:36
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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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