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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.77%
Average: 23.26%
Pretty Bad: 9.3%
Total Crap: 3.49%

7 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Hustle & Flow
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by Erik Childress

4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Sometimes true success can be found in the most unlikeliest of places. When perusing the initial lineup from Sundance this year, the logline of a pimp wanting to become a rapper held about as much appeal to me as getting shot with an anvil rifle. I’ve seen more than enough pimp stories and I hate rap even more. Then the buzz machine started. A huge sale to Paramount grabbed everyone’s interest and maybe it was time to put aside my assumptions and let this film get a foot inside my moviegoing door. When the white folk depart from the theater singing “You know it’s hard out here for a pimp,” you know you have a true audience pleaser on your hand.

DJay (Terrence Dashon Howard) is livin’ da life as a low-rent pimp in Memphis. The first we see him in his car, he’s preachin’ his best Tarantino-esque opening speech to his number one ho, Nola (Taryn Manning). Man is nothing more than a dog and DJay proves it by offering 20/40 Nola specials to anyone who stops. He may be behind the wheel, but he’s certainly not going anywhere.

He purports to know local-boy-made-good Skinny Black (Ludacris) from back in the day and he even boasts a relation to DJay’s handler (Isaac Hayes). Another old acquaintance enters his life just in time. Key (Anthony Anderson) is a former spinner himself, now settled down with a talkety-talk-talk wife (Elise Neal) and using his talents to record more of the spoken word than the rhyming ones with a beat.

DJay struggles to find his words, scribbling on notepads until he can find just the right ones to distract him long enough from the responsibilities of his surroundings. Key brings in another dreamer (D.J. Qualls) who works the grind filling vending machines but has the talent for mixing that their music needs to cut a demo tape.

What’s wonderful about Craig Brewer’s screenplay is his ability to create a story about dreamers without reducing it into just another speech-filled, reach-for-the-stars cliché collection. The wide-eyed anticipation of these characters who had settled into a life that is passing them by is outmatched by their ability to recognize that their dreams aren’t exclusive. Djay’s understanding of the needs of his pregnant girl and Nola is touching in the way that he involves them. The surprises they have up their sleeves becomes a further vindication of how giving someone that one chance can enrich not only their life but yours.

My affiliation with the world of rap music has been almost non-existent and therefore prone to the stereotypes that its detractors label it with. The narcissism of the bling, the classification of the ladies and the frequent cop-out of “being from the street” is enough to make any beat-challenged suburbanite to change the station. Beyond 8 Mile’s passé bit of story conception, it did a great disservice to the genre by presenting it as nothing more than a “your mama is so fat” montage set to music. Hustle & Flow starts from the ground up, establishing DJay’s street life, writing what he knows and then tweaking the music to find the right rhythm to draw listeners in.

That’s where director Craig Brewer unquestionably succeeds. Initially we may be kept at a distance, whether it be getting turned off by DJay’s profession and isolation of women or ready to turn the station having heard this tune too often before. My skepticism was on full blast early on, but found myself discovering the humor, caring about the characters and absorbing a performance by Terrence Howard that’s going to be having his agent field a number of calls for major projects. Sometimes all it takes is a familiar beat or a repetitive chorus to get us to listen to what’s itchin’ to get out. I might never buy DJay’s album, but I honestly respect his desire. If only more of the rappers out there were as thoughtful as this reformed pimp, I might be more prone to reconsider the deaf ear I turn to them.

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originally posted: 02/02/05 15:34:31
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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

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
9/04/09 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
9/22/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Cast!! 5 stars
5/19/06 alvino hernandez it was perfect i wanted tobuy the soundtrack after watching it 5 stars
4/13/06 Suzz Howard deserved the Oscar; great film 5 stars
3/23/06 Annie G Everyone involved in this film deserve kudos for making these characters symphathetic! 5 stars
3/13/06 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
2/06/06 othree Outdated, Grimey, Can't phantom why this was even considered good 1 stars
2/03/06 katsat Graphically and powerfully depicted the redemptive power of art. Absoutely amazing. 5 stars
2/03/06 adi actors r great, thoug script could be better 5 stars
1/17/06 Jared Wilson one of my favorites of 2005 5 stars
1/16/06 Rocky Great story, totally entertaining and excellent music. I'd recommend this one to anybody 4 stars
1/12/06 sjjlw the movie was great and the performances the best especially T D Howard. We had a viewing 5 stars
9/20/05 Jonathon Holmes one of the 10 best films of the year 5 stars
9/08/05 bac not a very good movie, but it showed just how good of an actor Terrance Howard is 3 stars
8/28/05 malcolm finally, a thoughtful hip-hop movie 4 stars
8/16/05 Yvonne Captivating (even when you're not a rap fan) 5 stars
8/13/05 LINDA B. BLANTON RIVITING. Terrance Howard bought DJ to life. Great Actor. 5 stars
8/01/05 krispf3 amazing. period. 5 stars
7/30/05 Kankasaur Dirty South gets its due, from pimp walk to perp walk 5 stars
7/28/05 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
7/26/05 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
7/25/05 arealazzlady` i guess you just have to live in proverty to understand the film 5 stars
7/25/05 Frank Newhouse HUSTLE AND FLOW IS OFF DA CHAIN NIGGA!! 5 stars
7/25/05 danyelle wilson i think the movie is better than all dis bullshit they got out now 5 stars
7/24/05 Yolanda Hustle and Flow was the bomb. Terrance was so amazing I've always been a fan of his . 5 stars
7/24/05 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
7/20/05 nimrod seductive but tragically misguided exercise in redemption at the expense of women; tired. 2 stars
7/17/05 Kristina Williams whoop that trick! 5 stars
7/13/05 Corny White Wow! I haven't seen all of these clichés before. 'Everybody gotsta have a drame!' 1 stars
7/05/05 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
2/05/05 glory I want that soundtrack!! 5 stars
1/26/05 Kathryn Hightower Absolutely amazing. Beyond wonderful acting, soundtrack, script, direction. 5 stars
1/25/05 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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