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Hustle & Flow is a good tale although it's slight Hollywood-ized
version of a rags-to-rich story. But that doesn't stop this movie from
giving effective performances and a gritty hustle and pimp story. This
story is one that the small-town people can relate with and it's
well-written one at that. Now, this is not my kind of music but I can
still appreciate the way people have come to succeed in this music
industry especially when things seem the darkest.
Craig Brewer's first feature is about a full-time pimp named Djay. Djay wants to get out of that business and prove to the world he has skills to be a rapper. When his childhood friend, who is a millionaire rapper plans on coming to town, Djay enlists the help of his friends to make sure he can succeed.
In 2005, this film as well as Crash put Terrence Howard on the map. He is brilliant as Djay. We can see his earnest passion to become a rapper and he brings much to this role. This character is what brought Terrence Howard to stardom. The supporting cast is decent as well even though some of the female characters are quite annoying.
Overall, this is a borderline great film that tells the traditional rag-to-rich tale. This is not my kind of music, but I can appreciate all the hard work these people do. I don't know where this film would be without Terrence. I enjoyed this gritty tale for the most part. I rate this film 8/10.
Hustle & Flow is a strange hybrid. Part rap, part urban drama and set
in the south. Terrence Howard is a Memphis pimp, Djay who runs a stable
of prostitutes and still has trouble making ends meet. No wonder life
is hard for a pimp.
After an encounter with an old school friend who also works as a music mixer he decides to write and rap about his life experiences, record music and hoping to have a shot at the big time. He hopes to this by persuading a big music star played by Ludicrous to listen to his tape on his return to town for a July the fourth party.
Terrence Howard would not be seen as your first choice to play a rapping street hustler as he tends to be known for more urbane characters in films such as Crash but holds attention as the hustler and rapper who lives for today and then struggles to do that. He is no hero or even that sympathetic, he just wants to survive but at least he does have dreams and talent as the words seem to flow out of him.
I guess the films might be problematic if you do not like rap and the subject matters of the rap songs with its swearing might be off putting for some.
There is tenderness, when Djay, Shelby and Key get together to make music and its at this point the film displays its heart when before that, its Djay pimping out his women.
I first heard of this film when the NPR show "Fresh Air" played interviews with Craig Brewer and Terrence Howard in the summer of 2005. I put it then on my list of "Films I absolutely have to see" (just crossed off Brokeback Mountain, still waiting to get to Paradise Now). I had the date that Hustle and Flow was coming out on DVD on my calendar, and I finally got to see this film last night. It's just incredible! The range of emotions that the actors display (and that the film evokes in the viewers) is exceptional. This is a world that I know nothing about (not just the pimp/hooker part -- I mean, I've never even been to Memphis!) but I feel as though I've lived in it now. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this beautiful movie, because you ALL did a top notch job! (not to play favorites, but especially the actors who play DJay (Terrence Howard) and Shug (Taraji P. Henson) -- amazing!)
Terrence Howard was very good as the pimp in this movies. Terrence Howard is amazing and his acting is accompanied by ANTHONY ANDERSON who also delivered the goods. The best part was when Terrence Howard was talking to Skinny Black in the bar. That was a great scene. I won't say what Terrence Howard did. He is a great actor and WHOOP THAT TRICK stuck in my head for days after seeing this movie. Terrence Howard is a rapper in disguise. He was able to pull off the Terrence Howard shuffle with no problem at all. Terrence Howard is not Denzel yet, but he is well onto his way. Terrence Howard is the next big black thing to come out of Hollywood. I hope that Terrence Howard decides to continue making great movies because he is up there with Forrest Whittaker now!
Surprisingly powerful performances dominate what is essentially a
familiar story of a man who dreams of having a better existence than
the one he has. What's revelatory is the atmosphere that
director-screenwriter Craig Brewer paints in this bitingly realistic
film focused on DJay, a Memphis pimp desperate to change his
marginalized life and become a rapper to get out of the ghetto. He's
obviously bright and articulate but morally bankrupt, as he makes a
living selling the services of two women, the young but world-weary
Nola and the embittered stripper Lexus, with a third prostitute at
home, the self-defeating Shug, pregnant with his child. In the midst of
a mid-life crisis, DJay reconnects with an old schoolmate, Key, who is
now a sound engineer for a local church, who in turn, introduces DJay
to Shelby, a white musician with his own beat machine. Together they
cut a demo tape that DJay plans to give a local celebrity, hip-hop
rapper Skinny Black, at a 4th of July party thrown by a mutual friend
The film takes a while to gain its momentum, as Brewer establishes the gritty realism of his setting before moving the plot along. Credit Amy Vincent's verité-style cinematography, which makes us inhabit the ghetto setting without caution. Thanks mostly to Terrence Howard's searing portrayal of DJay, the story gains a palpable soul in his struggle to make it. Make no mistake in assuming the movie will be unrelentingly bleak and violent. It is, in certain ways, an idealistic film about finding one's destiny no matter how onerous the odds. Brewer is wise to keep his focus on the characters rather than the situation as the actors deliver the goods in unexpected ways. Comic actor Anthony Anderson is surprisingly subtle as Key, and along with Elise Neal's sharp turn as his high-strung, upwardly mobile wife Yevette, represents the middle-class black lifestyle with observational precision.
The three women who play the prostitutes leave vivid impressions - Paula Jai Parker powerfully shows the angry desperation of the aging Lexus; Taryn Manning combines the hick and huckster of Nola, the only one making DJay money; and in the film's most poignant performance, Taraji P. Henson brings heart and painful melancholy to Shug. When she discovers her vocal chops during a recording session or innocently brings in a lava lamp, Henson is heartbreakingly impressive. Ludicrous makes his key moments count as the nihilistic Skinny Black. There are also some predictable plot turns that move the story toward cliché, including a conclusion that teeters on melodrama, but the Brewer's original execution compensates. Above all else, it's Howard who makes the film resonate with a rich, multi-dimensional characterization. As he moves fluently back and forth between scarifying and tender, Howard makes DJay not heroic but real and painfully wanting of a better lot in life.
The DVD has several extras - Brewer's insightful commentary on an alternate audio track and three solid featurettes that lend insight to the production - "Behind the Hustle", which includes the cast members talking about their roles and showing their various auditions; "By Any Means Necessary", in which Brewer and producers John Singleton and Stephanie Allain talk about the struggles to get the film made; and "Creatin' Crunk", which showcases the various funk and rap stars called upon to create the memorable songs DJay and the others perform throughout the film. There is also a disposable clip of the Memphis premiere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS UNTIL END
What's the problem? I thought it worked in every way. And it wasn't a Hollywood "happy ending." It was Memphis happy ending, not to be continued.
The 4th of July party at Arnel's Bar. Skinny Black's annual homecoming, to keep in touch with his roots (more like to remind him why he never wants to come back). This sets up DJay's last big chance, a tiny doorway to crawl out of his hole. His first attempts to get next to Skinny are met with rejection and insults. Frustrated, he keeps coming back and through his well-honed hustling skills, finally gets the cassette into Skinny's hands. What a negotiator. But Skinny's "Everybody gotta have a dream," is just an empty platitude he uses when accepting one of the thousands of cassettes he's handed. At that point, DJay was too pleased with himself to see that Skinny had no intention of listening to it or remembering where he came from.
In the mens room, Terrence Howard pulls off one of the most-gut wrenching performances of a guy's dream being crushed before your eyes. A really shrewed guy would have worked the situation, but he does what a DJay would do, shoots himself in the foot. Crushing a urine-soaked cassette in Skinny's mouth and beating him to a pulp is unlikely to get DJay a meeting. DJay has talent, but look where and how he lives and makes a living? His MO is making bad choices. By the way, he stinks as a pimp. I thought he'd kill Skinny but then he pulls back and expresses not regret but recognition of how he just blew it, and then survival mode kicks in. These guys carry guns but ah, they aren't professionals, and the shootout was stupid and sloppy like real life not like it's usually portrayed. The fact that DJay arrives back home well after the cops and the crowds are there makes it clear that he parked somewhere, thought it through, and said to himself 'I can hustle my way out of this.' He needed Nola at a time when he also sensed she was ready for a different kind of hustle "dressed for success." DJay's criminal notoriety getting him some air time is also no cliché. That's the American way. And Nola's delivering the cassette is the best marketing the music could've had--there are plenty of whores in business. Knowing what a *beep* Skinny was, the Memphis radio guys were probably falling all over themselves to give DJay a chance just for slapping Skinny. What goes around.
So what's the problem with the ending? It wasn't a cliché. Cliché would have been.... -they play the tape at the party and everyone goes wild. -Skinny is sincere -DJay's a big success -Let's put on a show... or -Skinny and everybody give it a listen and laugh. -We are invested in the cassette, and we want it work but a total downer ending would have been a complete dream killer for everyone. So that wouldn't work. Dramatically, narratively and cinematically, this ending works.
WHAT WOULD ALL YOU GENIUSES HAVE DONE? (I posted in the message board too if you want to take a shot).
DJay has his moment but I just can't see his going much further. I'm actually happy for him, that he gets that moment. He'll have to live on it for the rest of his life because, inevitably, he will screw things up again.
At the very end, when DJay says "Everybody gotta have a dream" you feel the sting of his rejection sweetened with the irony of his success. Will he listen to the cassette? He's in prison, I guess he will but at least this time and in this moment, he's the man.
The last 20 minutes were not absolute perfection, but I thought it was real and can't think of a better way to close the piece. And the first 96 minutes were even better. There was some great acting going on in this movie from everyone.
I swear, I really didn't think about this until now, but I just watched a "black" movie without really even thinking about it or judging it that way. Wow. So many movies with predominantly black casts make a white middle-aged woman like me feel like a voyeur. In this one, I was right inside the story.
I gave it a 10 and I will watch this again and again. And I think it'll be a 10 10 years from now. I admit my judgment may be effected by the fact that Terrence Howard is one gorgeous man, but he's a babe that can act. Not unlike a young Paul Newman or Al Pacino, both of whom have had long respectable careers with many memorable performances.
P.S. Great music too. Stax rules. Take on the rest but don't even bother debating that point.
This is a great film about a music industry that hasn't gotten much shine in Hollywood. I mean you had your occasional successes in 8 mile and many failures such as State Property, Get Rich or Die Trying or even Belly to an extent. This film is realistic and not over the top. I liked Howard in the lead as a pimp turned rapper from Memphis. I liked Brewers direction and writing, this is a gritty film that is thought-provoking, emotionally packed and entertaining. Anthony Anderson and Ludicrous both give good performances too and also Taraji henson and Taryn Manning were very good in their roles as the women who were pimped by DJay (Howard). This film is wellwritten, acted and directed. 9/10
Great film. Very powerful. Very entertaining. Great acting performances. Great casting. Great script. Characters you really feel for. One of 2005's best films. It's a great story of a man trying to live his dreams, and get out of the mediocre life he's leading. Very inspiring for all of us who want more than life's given us, and feel we have the potential for more than we've done. If we all took a shot, we'd have far less regrets. I'd rather know for sure, than wonder "what if?". I'm sure a lot of people will say it's ripping off 8 Mile, but I think this film is far superior, and much more believable. I loved this film, despite not liking rap music, so it really transcends audience demographics. It's a film about a would be rapper, but it's not just a film for rap fans. It's a film for anyone with a dream, which really should be everyone...
Terrence Howard is one of those actors who seemingly can do anything.
No matter what the role he intelligently chooses to play he is always
phenomenally fine (Crash, Ray, Lackawanna Blues, Their Eyes Were
Watching God, Four Brothers, Hart's War, etc etc etc). In HUSTLE & FLOW
writer/director Craig Brewer has finally given him a vehicle that
allows him more screen time and the opportunity to create a character
that burns his image on our memory indelibly.
The story of a pimp and drug dealer in Memphis, stuck in the poverty level and rapidly drowning in mid-life crisis, who pulls himself into the stream of his need and dream to be something different, a rapper star, has been told before but never in the gritty realistic atmospheric way this film does. One of the most telling sequences of both writing and acting is the opening scene of the film when Djay (Howard) quietly talks his philosophy to Nola (Taryn Manning), his primary prostitute, simply sitting in the front seat of his car, awaiting johns. Howard makes this soliloquy pungent yet quiet and in the words we hear provide the outline for the story to follow.
While Terrence Howard's is towering, the supporting cast is superb also. Anthony Anderson, DJ Qualls, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker, Isaac Hayes, and Ludicrous all offer genuine portraits of difficult characters. The smarmy side of Memphis is well captured by cinematographer Amy Vincent. This is a fine film, a bit difficult to watch at times because of the bruises of poverty and the depths to which people must descend at times to survive. But the story is pungent and tough and Terrence Howard is a marvel to watch. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is purely a character driven picture. The acting is very good on all counts. There is frustration, angst, and hope that is palpable. The director wisely cuts out a lot of the gritty details of the hustle and focuses more on the characters as humans trying to survive. It helps to identify with care for the people involved. The story is simple yet focused and involves some growth and learning. Particularly enjoyable was Djay's friendship with the people around his life. The ending was a bit of cop-out though causing me to wonder if the character had actually learned anything about humility. A bit of a letdown. Otherwise it was a good drama worth the watch and rental.
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