Hustle & Flow (2005)Starring:
Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, DJ Qualls, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, LudacrisDirected by:
I watched this a couple of weeks ago in my pre-Oscar watching binge for one simple reason: I needed to know just how hard it is out here for a pimp. Actually, I probably only rented it because Terrence Howard
got a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of pimp-turned-aspiring-rapper (about pimping, which, anyone who knows will tell you, ain't easy) DJay, and I needed to know if it was more deserving of the nomination then, say, Eric Bana
Howard manages to make DJay a somewhat-sympathetic and engaging figure, winning over the audience as the nicest pimp ever! But... the answer to the earlier question would be no
. I'm actually surprised this film got the attention it did in awards season, as it's a fairly simple movie with a tried-and-true underdog-makes-good storyline. Basically, it's a crunked-up remix of Pretty Woman
from the pimp's viewpoint. I'm guessing Howard got the nominations as a way to recognise his performance in this and in Crash
(if anyone had to be nominated for that flick, it should've been Howard or Don Cheadle
, not Matt Dillion
Even though the plotline isn't that original, the movie does have other things going for it. The setting (Memphis, Tennessee) is one that you don't often see on film, especially from the vantage point of the poor. Most people can't even conceive at the levels of poverty in the dirrty south, so the movie does a good job giving a glimpse of that world. The scenes where DJay collaborates with Key (Anthony Anderson
) and Shelby (DJ Qualls
) to record his songs are lots of fun, full of the energy of musical inspiration. The highlight of the film comes in the climax where DJay brings his demo tape to visiting hip-hop star Skinny Black (Ludacris
), originally from Memphis with a loose connection to DJay from high school, where DJay has to rely on all his experience of hustling people. This is the make-or-break moment for DJay, where all his hopes and dreams are on the line, where the common man would fade away. Howard shines in this scene, taking his one small opening and making the most of it. It's probably one of the best scenes of 2005, and a credit to the film that things don't turn out as predictably as one might imagine.
Unfortunately, the film comes off the climax with a happy ending that slightly betrays the harsh and shocking climax. In the end, the filmmakers couldn't break from the formula, and as a result, made a fairly average movie with some special moments. It's an entertaining film, one that will hold your attention and sometimes demand it. But it's not a special film, and thus, one that won't be for everybody. It'll play well to its core market, but if you're were on the fence as to whether or not a pimp epic was for you... it probably isn't.
3/5Related:Crash (2005)Rocky (1976)Ray (2004)