Hustle & Flow (2005)
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With that said, it is not a film for children. It is not a film meant to portray ideal role models for children. It IS a film meant to realistically depict the lives of people who live at the very bottom of America's socioeconomic ladder.
If you find yourself unable to reserve judgment against people born into a life so vastly different than your own, you will probably not like this film. In order to appreciate it, you have to be able to see past the moral and ethical ambiguities of these characters.
So if anyone feels unsure whether they can handle the ugliness of this type of world, but still feels curious enough to see it, take a cue from the Anthropologists...
When studying a culture vastly different than your own, make sure to leave the rights and wrongs of your society at home. Because once you impose the moral judgment and ethical standards of your world upon another's, you've sacrificed your objectivity. And by doing so, miss the very point of empathy.
On its face, this seems like a typical "man rises from the ashes of his hardscrabble life to experience success and then watches it all crash down around him" kind of movie. It's not a movie about suffering, success, and redemption, in other words. But it's not as predictable as it may seem at first blush, and Howard is not your typical actor, by any shot.
DJay lives with his small stable of prostitutes in a tumble-down shack in the Memphis ghetto. As pimps go, he's not exactly Donald Trump. Some dance for an exotic club during the day and hook at night; some hook all day. But the money's not rolling in for DJay, who remains somewhat confident that he'll someday come out ahead. When he obtains the keyboard, inspiration strikes, and a chance encounter with an old classmate (Anthony Anderson) who's now a producer (of sorts) gives DJay the opportunity to jump out of the rotten life he's carved for himself.
This never feels like a typical rise-and-fall story, and that's thanks in no small part to the powerful performance by Howard, who's much better here than in the critically lauded (by some) Crash. Appearing with Howard in Crash was Ludicrous, who also has a big role in Hustle and Flow - hey, some rappers are very good actors, it turns out. Howard, aided by a crisp script from Craig Brewer, who also directed, never portrays DJay as simply a nice guy with some flaws, someone who's been handed a bad hand and is making the best of it. It's clear that DJay's made all of his own choices, and the situation he finds himself in - depending on hookers for his livelihood - is of his own doing.
But neither does the script show DJay as being entirely bad, either, as evidenced by some surprisingly tender, moving scenes between DJay and Key (Anderson) and DJay and Shug, his pregnant woman. These scenes don't come off as stilted or insincere, and that's thanks especially to Howard's strong performance. True, too, are the scenes in which DJay lays down a rap track in his home; you can feel the rage seeping through your television.
This movie might be a difficult sell to those who have trouble relating to the environment and atmosphere in which DJay operates. Undoubtedly those who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks will recognize aspects of their own lives, identifying strongly with one or more of the characters. But even those of us who have never lived in squalor, who've generally had advantages that others do not, can appreciate the intense, gray world in which DJay and his associates live. Had this been a simple, typical biography of a musician from the mean streets, it wouldn't have had near the effectiveness, the passion of Hustle and Flow. The movie intrigues you, makes you want to know what happens to DJay, even when it's obvious he's a bit of a jerk. But because he's not a stupid man, his actions cannot be painted as simply good or simply bad. Howard, in particular, is well deserving of his critical accolades here.
This movie could've turned out bad with clichéd acting and over the top performances (there were moments where I felt his strip club whore was too much), but what makes you stick with the story, is that you really feel sorry for these people and you want them to succeed. The producer Stephanie Allain was at the L.A. premiere, and said that the character wanting to have a dream of better things was the universal theme that struck her. Craig (the director) also said that the story used bits and pieces of his own life and people he has met in Memphis to craft a story that really does happen to a lot of black people trying to get into the rap game. True, the hook of the story, a pimp wanting to be a rapper, sounds really funny. Lord knows if Mike Epps or Brian Hooks (or God forbid, Snoop) had been cast in the lead, this movie would've turned booty real quick. But once again, Terrence Howard makes this story come alive. I enjoy rap, but don't find crunk and a lot of lyrics enjoyable, but I must admit, in the context of the world it comes from and the hopes that these characters have, I was one of many people (the black ones in particular) who found myself swaying and singing the lyrics to "Whoop that Trick" et al.
As for the person on this board who commented that he too was at the Los Angeles Film Festival and found the white characters "acting black" tiresome, it must be said that in the south, black speech patterns and culture get picked up by whites. Living in close proximity creates that, and I didn't feel that the white characters were playing black. There was one comment in the movie where DJ Qualls arrives and Terrenc Howards character pulls Anthony Anderson aside and and questions the white boy's skills as a beat junkie, but that was the only time his color was brought up. But it was natural, no different than guys from Metallica questioning the skills of a black dude auditioning for a guitar gig. The subtext was simply "Does this dude even listen to crunk music?" Once his skills are proved, there is no question of race anymore.
The film should do well. I will see it again with my mother. Yes my mother. She loves Terrence Howard as much as I do, and I feel the movie should have a wide audience, young and old (with parental supervision). I enjoy watching Terrence Howard work, he makes you feel everything he feels on screen, and if this thing doesn't make him blow up, I don't know what will. He is the movie. See it for yourself and decide for yourself. Cuz it's hard out here for a pimp, ya'all.
Ps. For those feminists who get their panties all twisted because of any images of female exploitation, I must comment that all the women in this film (as broke down and trashy as they are) have dreams too, and Terrence's character realizes that they deserve better and strives to help them by helping himself. There is no such thing as a good pimp (like there is no such thing as a good slave master) but what redeems Terrence is that his pimp transforms his life and all those around him for the better.
They took the material seriously rather than letting it devolve into schmaltz or comedy. The direction is straight on, no BS, no showy shots. They take their time with each scene.
Good story, perfect characters well realized. Witty, crackling dialogue. You can't make this stuff up. And comparing this to 8 mile is like comparing dogshit to gold.
A deeply flawed protagonist who is able to reach into himself and transform himself through the power of art, larger themes involve the disillusion with fame, consumer culture.
This is everything a film is supposed to be. If it makes you feel good to knock this film, then you are a snob. If you think can make a better movie than this, then go ahead!
People who love movies love this film. This is what film is about.
The increasingly talented Terence Howard (recently seen in Ray and Crash), plays DJay, a pimp turned rapper who wants to prove his worth and swap his tricks for a trade in America's crunked up south.
Newcomer Craig Brewer takes the helm as we visit Memphis and see it through the eyes of the down but not outters consisting of DJay and his working girls. When he reunites with school friend Key (Anthony Anderson) they decide to take charge of their lives and realise their dream by putting together a demo tape of their skills, with the hope of hitting the big time.
This is not a bad movie, in fact Howard is equally as convincing as a pimp with a newly found heart and as a rapper, something that was both a bold and a fruitful choice. If the star hadn't convinced on any level it is a sure-fire guess to say a non-rapper would never be allowed to rap in a movie, but he did and he did it well.
The standard underdog making it to the big time route has been bypassed and replaced with a story that hold's your attention and has an unpredictable and real conclusion.
Amongst Flow's supporting cast, Isaac Hayes takes stage as the bar-owner who puts DJay in touch with the hometown's former star- Skinny Black, played sneeringly by Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges. As well as these two familiar songsters, Anthony Anderson and DJ Qualls, of Road Trip fame, make up the group and put in solid performances. The female cast who constitute DJay's trade are Eminem's ex-girlfriend in 8 Mile, Taryn Manning and Paula Jai Parker as the outspoken Lexus, again all providing non-sterling but convincing turns as part of the phat pack.
But it is Taraji P. Henson's part as the heavily pregnant Nola who catches the eye as a sweet and naïve part of the outfit. It is her who seems to be the only person that allows DJay to relinquish his sometimes brutal pimp suit and put on something more responsible and caring as he ventures out hustling for his right to fame.
This is not your standard cheer at the screen rise-to-fame story that Americans seem to love, too much. What it is, is a well thought out project that takes you on a journey of trials and tribulations that are the all more convincing when performances by Howard, Manning and Henson garnish the story.
The gritty staging, the solid no-frills camera-work and editing, and some really excellent performances make this well worth the effort to confront dishonest characters struggling to find some sort of integrity in their efforts to survive and succeed. These characters are not likable - none of them are, they each have a tic that denies them total sympathy from the audience. But they are all very human for that, and so ultimately win our respect if not approval.
Among the actors, two performances especially shine. Terrence Howard as DJay shows timing and expression worthy of much older, more "schooled" actors. Anthony Anderson is a real and pleasant surprise; stuck in character roles for the past decade, Anderson has become a real annoyance to me, as the usual character he plays is really excessive, a caricature. In this role, he is allowed to just act, and he delivers a wholly believable multifaceted performance.
Hollywood has been producing such bad films that saying this film is among the best released this year may not be saying much (there are real and undeniable weaknesses to the film). Nonetheless, on the whole, the film is a commendable and rewarding effort to present a drama involving human beings living close to real life, and not cartoons. I credit that effort, and recommend a viewing.
(Comment) The movie was filmed all around Memphis during 2004. Memphian Craig Brewer wrote and directed 'Hustle and Flow,' and I went to the red carpet movie premiere in Memphis on 6 July. Craig Brewer told the audience about his father's watch that was used in the movie, and he was wearing it for good luck that night. He was also wearing a 3-carat diamond ring that belonged to Sam Phillips. As for the movie, Terrence Howard's role as DJay is a remarkable one in that he becomes immersed in the character of DJay. Howard comes off as a real pimp with all the anger, conflicts, and frustrations, which he encounters in life. There is no such thing as a good pimp, but the character of DJay realizes that his women have dreams too, and that he wants to change everything around him and them for the better. The subject matter and the lyrics to the rap music are a little rough, but the movie is a good one to see. (Paramount Classics, Run time 1:54, Rated R) (8/10)
Now we're glorifying pimps It's incredibly offensive to me that the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" won an academy award. (worst of all, I can't get the stupid hook out of my head). We're supposed to feel bad for how hard this guy's life is? I could feel bad for him if he was the one having to sell his body day after day but I really can't get much sympathy going for a pimp. How about, "It's hard out here for a child molester." Does that grab you?
It's hard enough out 'here' for a law-abiding, gainfully employed black man how about showing THAT in the movies. Instead of the same representation black men get over and over pimps, drug dealers, addicts (or the 'success' stories: rappers and athletes).
Even though the movie doesn't show him beating on his 'employees,' you know that he must the women are clearly scared of him and his first song is entitled, 'Whoop that Trick' (toned down from his original title, 'Beat that Bitch'). And no, I don't believe he's referring to beating up a customer (which is not really too common). Some statistics: "80% of prostitutes are sexually assaulted by pimps via sadistic sex; 71% of pimps use drugs to control the women; and 34% of the women received death threats from pimps personally or to their family." - from "Sex Trafficking In the United States, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women Study," Raymond, Hughes, Gomez (3/01)
The women are all incredibly superficial characters (the weepy, weak-willed caregiver; the dumb but docile white girl; and the bitch).
And Djay's dream of being a rapper. I'm sorry - just because he has something he needs to 'spit out' doesn't mean it's something worth listening to.
This movie depicts that there is no craft to making rap music and that it is the theme music of the slime of society. Every song is about drugs, violence, bitches and hoes.
He later beats up a drugged rapper and shots his way out of the situation. He goes off to jail but not before he convinces his white prostitute that she is in charge. What a movie hero.
John Singleton is the new D.W. Griffith perpetuating destructive black stereotypes. What did we do to you John? Who hurt you? Hustle and Flow should be called Black on Black hate. The hustle is the marketing to hip hop audiences; the flow is the cash flow the studio will make.
It is not possible to talk about this film without focusing on the person that really puts it all on his back and carries it from start to finish Terrence Howard. Never someone who has impressed me, Howard did well in a small role in Crash and has improved again to produce a convincing central performance here. DJay could have been a big cliché played by a rapper that deeply enjoys the credibility of the pimp role but in Howard's hands the role is much closer to being a real person. He doesn't enjoy the pimp life so much as convincingly mire himself in it his eyes are filled with an anger and pain that say more about the person than a thousand Jay-Z songs ever will. His character is key to the film and it is Howard that makes this part work.
The rest of the film is more or less worthy of him but loses its way right at the end. For the majority we are allowed to act as witnesses without sides in his story we aren't pushed to see him as a good man or a bad man, nor to allow the fact he might be "good deep down" to excuse his violent exploitation of women. It is a fine line but the film balances it well. This success helps to make the plot more interesting considering that it is only ever a note away from being just one big "making it out the hood" movie. The scenes of hip-hop hope are a bit cheesy but they are well balanced out by the sleazy and unglamorous reality of the lifestyle. It could have been deeper and more about the characters but it is still interesting enough to do well up to a point.
Unfortunately this point is about 20 minutes before the end of the film when suddenly Brewer abandons his approach and falls back on cliché, easy options and, worst of all, an optimistic ending that sees him holding DJay up in a way that he had mostly manage to avoid doing. The whole end flies in the face of what had gone before and throws off the balancing act it had done up till that point. It is a shame because it should have been more downbeat and interesting but instead it takes the line of least resistance. It may have been Brewer but, in his defence, it does smell slightly like the work of a studio executive or an American test audience. It still just about works although not even Howard can cover the disappointing in the final act.
The rest of the cast do well to help him. Usually Anderson is enough to make me avoid a film but, as with the most recent series of The Shield, he shows that he can act and has a solid serious side. He is good and surprisingly unshowy support for Howard. Manning is good as Nola but again the end of the film sees her betrayed and asked to be something she is not. The vulnerable and pregnant Shug is really well delivered by Henson; her character may be simple on paper but she does well to be really quite touching and sympathetic. Parker has a black cliché in her finger-clicking, swearing performance but she is good enough to do the job without dragging the rest down a notch. Ludicrous (who also impressed me in Crash) is pretty close to his rapping personae in an easy role but he deserves credit for taking a beating on screen and being convincing in his one role. Hayes is a bit distracting in such a small role but again is a nice addition.
Overall this is a pretty good film that pulls off the balancing act and avoids judgement for the majority, helped in no small way by a very strong turn from Howard. However at the end it undoes all this god work with an ending that is so easy and pat that I genuinely doubted it had been delivered by the same person who had written and directed the first two-thirds. Close to cliché and corn at times but it mostly mixes them well and the film is worth seeing.
Hustle and Flow is an inspiring, engaging and intense film of becoming something. The majority of the film is realistic with relatable characters and situations. It shows the many struggles of life and it proves that hard work does pay off. The beginning of the film was a little tough to watch because of the living style of the main characters. It was a little scary to see what some people have to do just to get by. I think director Craig Brewer did a fine job at portraying these situations without making them seem too cheesy or over the top. The second half of the film focused on D-Jay and his struggles to find his right music. The music is surprisingly good and meaningful. I say "surprisingly" because rap doesn't really interest me but the film actually made it tolerable.
The lyrics don't hold back and they may be offensive to some. I thought they were okay and they had more to do about life rather than the usual stuff you hear in rap songs. My favorite scenes were the ones that took place in the recording room. As cheesy as this may sound, they were more inspirational and engaging. It showed different types of people working together and coming up with some nice material. The final act features D-Jay meeting with Skinny Black and hoping his songs get picked up by him. The conversation between Skinny and D-Jay was pretty good but it was also a little depressing. It's sad to have someone lie right to your face about how good you are and then find your music in the toilet. It just shows how tough the real world is and it makes D-Jay tougher for not giving up. The ending wasn't as strong as everything else. It was a little cheesy and unrealistic. However in some ways, it was nice to see a sort of happy ending.
The acting is terrific and everyone gives a good performance. Terrence Howard plays D-Jay and he gives a very engaging performance. His character isn't very likable but it was easy to root for him. His performance was just that good. Taryn Manning is just as good as Terrence and she also deserved an Oscar nomination. I can't believe this is the same girl from Crossroads considering her performance is really strong. I don't really like Anthony Anderson but even he gave a good performance and it was easily his best performance ever. Taraji P. Henson and DJ Qualls are also just as good as the other actors. Personally, I think Ludicrous gave a better performance in this film than in Crash.
While the film is pretty good, it's not for everyone. Most of the characters are unlikable due to their lifestyles and attitudes. Some people may find it hard to care about these characters if they think so low about them. Also, the women in this movie are mistreated and some people may be disgusted by this. The story is also unoriginal and it there were a few clichés. Personally, I thought that the acting and the direction were strong enough to overcomes these weaknesses. In the end, Hustle and Flow is a difficult film to watch at times but it's still a strong film that's worth checking out. Rating 9/10
For example, in the scene where the white dude teaches a woman the "hook," it's clear the director is not a musician because every time there was an edit the key of the tune changed. The "hook" itself was not a good one, neither catchy nor interesting: "You know it's hard out here for a pimp/When you're trying to get the money for the rent/With the Cadillac and gas money spent/We'll have a whole lot of bitches jumping ship." Okay, there's a chiasmus in the rhyme scheme (ABBA symmetry) which is quite sophisticated for rap. But the "woe is me, I'm a pimp" sentiment is laughable.
We then have every cliché in the book to show how hard he struggles. The only thing missing is a drunk mother like in 8 MILE. It ends with him having a hit single after getting into a gunfight and doing time, so I guess the moral of the story is "anyone without talent can succeed in rap if you are violent enough." Sadly, this is probably true.
Although I am completely against censorship, I found myself agreeing somewhat with those who felt films like this one, Get Rich or Die Trying' , etc. are a bad influence on everyone, particularly black youths. The fact is people are impressionable. If they weren't, advertisers wouldn't be spending millions to persuade us. So gang violence doesn't happen just because they saw a particular movie, but certainly these movies glorify and validate a lifestyle that gang members will then emulate. Sometimes life really does imitate art.
And as someone who has argued against the negative portrayal minorities in the media, I find it much harder to defend blacks since their negative portrayals are now being perpetrated by black filmmakers themselves. But you can't have it both ways: either the black community is badly served by these movies since blacks are really just good people like everyone else; or these films are truthful, blacks are to be feared and therefore the police are justified in racial profiling. What's is going to be? I sure hope it's the former.
Where's Spike Lee when you need him? He is the lone voice in the wilderness pointing out that rappers and gangstas are nothing more than minstrel acts -- gross caricatures of an entire community. People who think this is reality are selling themselves short.
To paraphrase Public Enemy (when rap actually had something to say), "50 Cent is a hero to most/But he never meant sh*t to me."
So there I am, stoned like an Indian cow, in front of my 24" widescreen LCD, starting this DVD with the following mindset: "If it's not entertaining in the first 10 minutes I'm zeroing this movie for good".
And the the very first scene, where he reveals his riped mind to this ho' who couldn't compose one simple, meaningful sentence as a reply to his 5-6 minutes dissertation, blew my fckng mind to pieces. I couldn't stop watching, my eyeballs where drying up, I didn't want to blink. The whole movie flows with such characters, each is worth studying. But most of them develop throughout certain time period, while DJay was already developed, fully bloomed. So here we are, watching this knightly character who knew what he wanted so much more than the others that he simply hanglides through them throughout the whole movie.
You must see this movie stoned cause I cannot guarantee what would I say if I wasn't. So take no chances, get some weed from your neighbors teen and rent this mottafuka at once. And make sure you watch it with someone who has the similar mindset like you or just be alone.
Let me know what you think.
Everyone has to go see this movie regardless of race, age, (18yrs) or gender. I give this movie the highest rating for a director and performer.
Thank You, Staci Schacht
Performances: Terrence Howard is fantastic, the soul of the film. He's astonishing in every frame he appears in, and is easily one of the best performances of this decade. Anthony Anderson is as usual, excellent. Taraji P.Henson delivers an earnest performance. Taryn Manning is a revelation. She's superb. Others are decent.
on the whole 'Hustle & Flow' is a brave and reverting film. I love this film, and I recommend each and every cinema this film. Two Thumbs Up!