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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.54%
Average: 22.99%
Pretty Bad: 10.34%
Total Crap: 3.45%

7 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Hustle & Flow
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by brianorndorf

"Sporadically entertaining"
3 stars

A sweaty ode to crunk rap and dreams of the undesirable, “Hustle & Flow” wouldn’t be anything without the amazing work from actor Terrence Dashon Howard. Take him out of the equation, and the film is a routine underdog story, and one that falls to pieces in the final reel.

DJay (Terrence Howard, “The Best Man”) is a Memphis pimp looking for a better life for himself when he recognizes his dire situation. Financed by his stable of hookers (including Taryn Manning, Paula Jai Parker, and Taraji Henson), DJay reignites an early love for music, and flirts with a career in “crunk” rap music. Calling on an old friend (Anthony Anderson) for help, DJay starts to lay down some tracks, and soon the singular power of his voice and persona become a viable, if elusive, ticket out of his bleak surroundings.

One cannot write about “Hustle & Flow” without centering praise on the lead performance from Terrence Howard. As DJay, the conflicted, oily pimp looking to break free from the game and satisfy his long held dreams, Howard delivers a career-best performance. On paper, the character arc for DJay doesn’t veer far from the familiar, including instances of DJay seducing his stable of hookers and vicious displays of his red-hot temper. What Howard accomplishes with his acting is making DJay a human being – albeit an icy one, but there’s a fire behind his glare that screams out more character motivation than anything in the speech-heavy screenplay could. Howard is ferocious, funny, and most significantly, capable of expressing DJay’s inner thought process. He brings believability to the way the character does business, most importantly the “flow” of the title. Building off his grand work in “Crash,” Howard has finally come into his own, with “Hustle” capturing his Oscar-worthy concentration brilliantly.

Too bad the rest of the film isn’t up for the same challenge. Patterned off pimp cinema of the 1970s (complete with static yellow opening titles), along with a little taste of the struggling-for-rap-stardom genre found in “8 Mile,” “Hustle” is a familiar cocktail that assumes freshness with its pioneering take on the “crunk” genre of hip-hop. Written and directed by Craig Brewster, “Hustle” is a very entertaining picture for people who like their protagonists morally questionable and their dialog as thick and insufferable as the Memphis summer Brewster impeccably recreates. The picture is a memorable creation if only for its setting and texture, in which Howard helps Brewster immensely by selling his surroundings with laid-back grace. I’m also deeply impressed by the performance the filmmaker dragged out of Anthony Anderson. In a rare non-screaming role, Anderson is likeable and dramatic in ways he’s never registered on film before. Brewster deserves a standing ovation for that little trick alone.

While “Hustle” trucks along proficiently enough, even creating some future crunk hits through DJay’s flow along the way (with song titles like “Whoop That Trick”), the film’s goodwill is obliterated in the final 30 minutes. If the film wasn’t teetering enough on the edge of formula for the first two acts, it sinks like a stone into absurdity when tempers flare and guns are drawn for the finale. Brewster had a curious way of mounting a big audience-pleasing urban film experience with “Hustle,” but his instincts turn to dust with this closer, which props up DJay as some type of hero when the film wisely never bothered to take sides before.

Brewster also sees fit to hand “Hustle” a happy ending, which is preposterous, and taints the entire experience. Even DJay wouldn’t swallow that much good fortune coming to him.

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originally posted: 07/19/05 12:54:34
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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

8/16/19 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
9/04/09 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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