Hustle & Flow (2005)
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Review Date: December 23, 2005
Director: Craig Brewer
Writer: Craig Brewer
Producers: John Singleton, Stephanie Allain
Terrence Howard as DJay
Taryn Manning as Nola
Anthony Anderson as Key
This is the story of a Memphis pimp who has always dreamt about becoming a rapper, but has never done anything about it…until now! Running into an old friend from high school, the pimp sets up a make-shift studio at his (ho)house, as the duo, along with a white guy, attempt to create some cool tunes for public consumption. What follows is a tale of grit, ambition, hard work and a bunch of hope for anyone out there who might be feeling down-and-out. Or, if you’re a pimp simply looking for inspiration…this one’s for you!
There ain’t too many other things that you can ask for in a movie, as HUSTLE & FLOW takes all of the required elements for a successful flick (in my mind, at least) and melds them all to create a fresh, entertaining and inspirational tale about a street pimp with ambitions greater than simply hustling the ladies. This film takes the standard story of your “underdog with a dream” and brings it into the year 2005 with a hip soundtrack, a bunch of engaging characters and impressive actors, a slick style of direction – not afraid to borrow from the 70s in spades (loved that opening and I’m sure Tarantino would too!) – and a surprising amount of humor, emotion and drama, all ideally blended to create a believable tapestry of actual street folk with hope for their own futures that go beyond the scope of their blood-shot eyeballs. This film is all about “going for your dreams” and I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for movies of its type. Unlike GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’, this film’s dialogue and songs also came through, as did its welcomed insight into the process of creation. Mind you, if you’re easily offended by words like “nigga”, “bitch” and “ho”, look only at this film’s cover, put it back on the DVD shelf and keep walking as its every other line is a slave to those words. They didn’t bother me one bit, seeing as those were the words used in that world.

Of course, the film is nothing without the obvious vision from writer/director Craig Brewer, but the truth is that lead actor, Terrence Howard, might have as much to do with the film’s strength, with a career-best performance that truly digs deep inside the soul of a friggin’ pimp, and oddly enough, makes us feel his pain and frustration. That’s right…by the end of this film, I was rootin’ for a goddamn pimp, man…that’s impressive! But that’s not all. The rest of the cast also comes through with well-rounded street-walkers (yeah, you heard me!) like Taryn Manning and Taraj Henson (her “thank you” scene will break your heart) also fleshing out their secondary roles. I know this might be a hard thing to fathom, but the film even provides for a little empowerment of the ladies, which I’m always for! Yeah, I realize that last line doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense when you consider that the film is centered around a pimp and his hookers, but you gotta believe in that “we’re all human beings” thang, and ultimately, you have to go into a movie like this with an open heart and mind, and even moreso, a willingness to look for the best in everything and everyone. Add to that, a number of surprising cast-mates including a serious Anthony Anderson, a not-so-goofy DJ Qualls and an effective Ludacris? Yeah, you heard me!

I don’t know, maybe I’m just a sucka for films that exemplify this one’s tagline of “Everybody gotta have a dream”, but at the end of the day…really, what else you got, right? Considering the number of sequels and crap that we’ve been forced to watch coming out of Hollywood over the past few years, I’m more than happy to recommend a wholly original take on the old tale of the underdog, with plenty of profanity, naughtiness and “street reality” padding an effective narrative about a man, his dreams, his fears and eventually, his no-holds barred “cajones” to make things happen in his life. And yeah, I teared up like a bitch during a handful of touching scenes…got a problem with that!?
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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