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Hustle & Flow More at IMDbPro »

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Confounds Expectations With Powerful Ensemble Acting and Relatable Idealism

8/10
Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA
17 January 2006

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 Arnel.

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.

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LAST 20 MINUTES - *****A real SPOILfest*****

10/10
Author: flagday53 from PA/USA
15 January 2006

*** 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.

Great job.

P.S. Great music too. Stax rules. Take on the rest but don't even bother debating that point.

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Great performance from Howard, great film

9/10
Author: PersianPlaya408 from Milpitas, California
13 January 2006

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

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Great and powerful film

9/10
Author: dennsylvania from Pennsylvania, US
11 January 2006

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...

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'Talk the talk or walk the walk'

8/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
11 January 2006

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

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Involving with strong characters

7/10
Author: pc95 from San Diego
10 January 2006

*** 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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a great movie

10/10
Author: poetbob from Canada
9 January 2006

From all I'd heard about it, I had high expectations of this movie before I watched it, and I was not disappointed. Wow. It was not a good movie, it was a GREAT movie. D-Jay is a Memphis pimp trying to get out of the hustling game. In his heart and mind burns the flow of rhythm and lyrics born out of the gritty streets, where he ekes out a living for himself and his "girls". But he dreams of more, of bringing his verse out, knowing its cathartic nature can be his only hope for escape and freedom from his life of drug dealing and pimping. Hustle & Flow has a rock-solid supporting cast, but Terence Howard needs an Oscar for his portrayal of the rapping pimp, D-Jay. He made it real, he brought D-Jay to life, he gave him his heart, the good, bad, inspiring, self-defeating, overcoming, and redeeming. Maybe Terence Howard isn't "big" enough yet in the Academy circles, but in my mind, if he doesn't deserve an Oscar, no one does.

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Amazing how little recognition it received!

10/10
Author: petkot1990 from United States
15 November 2005

This is probably one of my favorite movies of this year if not of all time. After I watched it I was hooked on Terrance Howard. The man is the greatest thing to hit Hollywood since plastic surgery! And directors know it, he's been in plenty of movies this year and I have yet to be disappointed. But, back to the movie. This movie brought the Pimpin' life of DJay to you in near perfection. Terrance Howard was great. I loved the songs so much that I went out and bout the Soundtrack and it's just as good as the movie. DJay is in a rut pretty much and decides that the only way to go is up. He meets an old friend from High School(Anthony Anderson) who has become a producer (or whatever you call it in the case of classical music) and sees the opportunity. The song he decides to make for his premiere called "Whoop That Trick" delivered a great scene while being made. Anthony A. says to Terrance H. while the song is originally called "Beat That B****" "We're trying to get Radio play man, no one will play this. It's degrading to women." "Well what you mean man?" "We gotta change the title, it's degrating to women when you call them B*****s" "Well I ain't trying to call no H* no B****. How bout "Stomp that Ho" or "Whoop That Trick." This is my favorite scene!!! This is getting a little long... Bottom Line - MUST SEE!!! It's too late to see it now, but it's coming out on DVD January 10,2006!

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pivotal plot point

Author: tlmfilmmaker from United States
30 October 2005

The character of Harold played by Claude Phillips was the most on point acting in the movie. Phillips' performance as a street bum who sold D Jay the small keyboard that helped hook the main character to pursue his dream was the strongest and yet, most understated scene in the movie. The interplay between D Jay and Harold was natural and believable. I expect to see Claude Phillips appear in more films in the future.

The movie in itself did not meet the hype of the film. Although we saw the inner workings of a particular pimp and his whores relationships, it did not express exactly how most black confident pimps operate in this game. For example, most pimps do not pimp out of their car, like D Jay. That is "chilli pimpin" and "spot pimpin." That mode is reserved for the shaking pimps. D Jay appeared to be more confident of his game and his control of his hoes. Conseqently, pimps who fit that profile, they instruct their lady or ladies on how to act in regards to procuring business and set them out on automatic pilot to ply their trade, with him or her behind the scenes waiting on the money.

Although, the acting was good, Terrance Howard and his pregnant ho overstated the Southern dialect in trying to talk Memphis. However, Howard hit a homerun with his rapping. Perhaps, he should consider exploring that talent further.

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Excellent & so real

8/10
Author: BronzeKeilani26 from SF. Calif. USA
26 October 2005

I really don't like movies laced w/ struggles & oppression which take some of us back down memory lane if were not still on it but Hustle & Flow was great! I was able to relate to almost all the characters thru experience & my life had a great ending just like this. For those of you who assume the movie is over exaggerated or too much was put on it, trust me it wasn't. My son decided to take me out to see a movie & this was our choice. I was very surprised to see the showing packed w/Caucasians & elderly ones at that too so I sent my son out to make sure we were in the right showing. My boyfriend once told me that they enjoy stories of our lives & observing what oppression is about. I was thrilled to see this movie kept it real & they enjoyed it from the beginning to the end. I always have loved Terence's acting & he shined at his best in Hustle & Flow. Surprisingly A. Anderson was likable in this movie & all the characters played their roles to the tee giving it the realness that made it so enjoyable. This is one movie I have got to own!

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