"Hustle & Flow"
Directed by Craig Brewer.
Written by Craig Brewer.
Starring Terrence Howard, Taryn Manning, Anthony Anderson and
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 7/27/2005
I had been hearing about how great "Hustle &
Flow", the new hip-hop saga from writer/director Craig Brewer, ever
since Sundance this year, so finally I got the chance to see what
all the hype is about. This much I know--even though it's not
great in the way I thought it was going to be, this was a great time
at the movies thanks to truly great music and a noteworthy
performance from star Terrence Howard.
The thing is, I have always like Howard in
other films; kind of like Paul Giamatti before he did
Splendor" a couple years back, Howard has been a bit player with
edge for 10 years now, showing up in "Dead Presidents" a forever ago
and doing bit parts on TV shows and shitty movies for some time now.
(How low did he go? Two words: "Glitter.")
Finally, Howard got his hands on a lead role and all he does is
knock it straight out of the park. His character,
Memphis-based pimp/pusher DJay, is wrong on a hundred levels, but
you still see in this role a chance to do something totally
different and Howard just scoops it up and runs with it.
DJay presides over an interesting
household--he's got a hooker named Nola (Taryn Manning) who is the
perfect visual for white trash; he's got a former girlfriend named
Shug (Taraji Henson) who looks so pitiful & helpless that you find
yourself extending a new box of Kleenex in her direction every time
she walks onscreen; and he's got a stripper named Lexus (Paula Jai
Parker) that has a kid and a mean streak; the four of these folks
don't seem to get along so well but they're trying to find a way to
make it. One day, after hearing that old high school classmate
Skinny Black (Ludacris) will be back in town to celebrate the
success of his new platinum hip-hop album, DJay gets it in his head
that he should start pursuing his dream of getting into the music
biz...and with the help of a gospel sound man (Anthony Anderson) and
a white beats man from that guy's church (DJ Qualls, from
DJay sets off to make his own demo tape.
There's a lot to love in "Hustle & Flow",
from the performances of Howard, Anderson, Henson and Manning to the
rags-to-rags style of the "rise" of DJay to greatness. Even
though real life seems to be saturated with tales of former drug
dealers (say, a Jay-Z), criminals or pimps turned rap stars, movies
aren't...so, the story of a pimp that gets into recording gangsta
rap all the while treating his tricks like shit and dealing weed on
the side isn't exactly your run-of-the-mill right now. (I'm
having a flash right now that's telling me after our run of
gladiator epics and PG-13 horror films, the next wave of genre
flicks will be pimps-turned-rappers flicks.) See, even the
last film that kind of reminds you of all of this,
features a lead that doesn't seem to be a bad guy at all; DJay is a
bastard in many ways, early on and late, so sympathy for him is an
interesting idea even if you factor in his efforts to feed his
All of this going on is great, but certainly
my favorite part of "Hustle & Flow" was the music; the songs are
great, the beats are phat...and, the rap choruses are just perfect,
because during my favorite sequence--when DJay and his production
team come up with the beats and the licks for "Whoop Dat
Trick!"--you get to watch a microcosm of what goes into a song.
Now, other movies have done that well; even
Rock" has a great scene like this where the kids and their
teacher (Jack Black) come up with a beat. But, it's a very
little thing, funny at first where DJay wants to call the song "Beat
That Bitch!" before the gospel man backs DJay up. "Wait a
second, man" he starts in, "you want this thing to get on the radio,
right? How 'bout we change the line a little bit..."
And they come up with a line that works for
pimps, for guys, for girls, for anybody...and the way the three guys
in the "studio" (a room DJay converts in his own house by adding
coffee holders and blankets to muffle sound) start dancing and
waving and shakin' around to "Whoop Dat Trick!" is hilarious.
Of course, the beat had people around me doing a pretty synchronized
head-bob, but the whole scene reminded me of what it must have been
like in the Ludacris studio when he made "Move, Bitch!" with
Mystikal a couple years ago. They needed to make the
song not male hatred of women...no, they needed to make it sound
like anybody could be talking to anybody else, and the resulting
song is still one of my favorite club songs ever. Why?
Because an equal number of guys and girls are singing along to the
chorus; seriously, watching a pack of girls wave their arms while
shouting "MOVE, BITCH...GET OUT THE WAY...GET OUT THE WAY BITCH, GET
OUT THE WAY!!!" is flat-out awesome. Can't beat it.
"Hustle & Flow" has other great musical
sequences, in addition to some pretty strong dramatic moments (Lexus
and the doorway meeting was my highlight in this regard) and a sweet
ending. But, it's a fun movie that mixes good laughs with a
little weight in terms of the drama and it has a killer soundtrack
if you're a hip-hop fan. Check, check, check...check it out!
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard