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  Publicity Stills of "Hustle & Flow"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Action/Crime/Drama
Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Terrence Howard, DJ Qualls, Ludacris, Taryn Manning, Anthony Anderson, Isaac Hayes, Taraji P. Henson, Elise Neal, Paula Jai Parker
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: M18

Official Website: http://www.hustleandflow.com

Release Date: 12 October 2006

Synopsis :

HUSTLE & FLOW is a hip hop movie with action and crime with great music.

Terrence Howard plays DJay, a pimp and drug dealer eking out an existence with his three whores – Shug who is hugely pregnant, Nola who turns tricks from the backseat of DJay's beater and Lexus, the hustler's high-maintenance girlfriend who strips in a cellar-like club. DJay's dissatisfaction is increasing as he senses that life has nothing more in store for him, but a chance encounter with an old school friend, Key, reignites his musical aspirations…

A gritty fairy tale of dreams deferred, HUSTLE & FLOW infuses the torpor of the Memphis ghetto with electric tension, striking an unprecedented balance between feel-good fare and unstinting urban drama, in what amounts to a powerful depiction of the pain and poignant struggle of those who populate this often-misinterpreted milieu.

Movie Review:

Craig Brewer’s “Hustle & Flow” was a victim of circumstance, much like its characters. Its premise was initially pigeonholed with many of the overly dramatised and simplified stories of drug dealing pimps, but a deep understanding of the lifestyle it entails and Oscar worthy performances by its leads elevates it from summer release fodder to a powerful drama that’s as sympathetic as it is gripping.

First gaining significant critical interest in Sundance with an Audience Award, and later being sold for a record fee to Paramount Pictures was its first steps in breaking the mould of most hip-hop centric films that preceded it. “Hustle & Flow” will still be recognisable for 2 things. The Oscar win for Best Original Song, over the expected favourite in Dolly Parton and Terrence Howard’s remarkably intense performance that is very much an unconventional role within a role.

He plays the role of a Memphis pimp named Djay with quiet resilience and stark ambivalence towards his expected treatment of women and what he wants out of them. With nothing but a pipe dream to keep him going through his days, he looks upon each trick and deal as another step in keeping a corral around the women in his life. Djay’s not supposed to be a likeable guy. We see this each time he urges somebody to do something they clearly don’t want to do, while eating up their spirit like a predator. But one thing is obvious, Djay’s smart enough to actually break out of this rut. His women look at that and believe in him, contrary to what they say in anger. In another life, or possibly just presented with better opportunities, Djay could have very well been somebody that achieved something tangible in his life. That’s the sort of nuanced discovery that Howard brings towards his complex character, setting it apart from other rags-to-riches typecast that the film narrowly avoids.

As the opening scene can attest, we’re not just dealing with a scant expression of the pimp and his main moneymaker, Nola (Taryn Manning). They have to do some ugly things to get what’s needed when Djay finally gets his head straightened as if touched by a muse or maybe even an approaching midlife crisis. He finds some hope to cling on to with a producer pal, Key (Anthony Anderson), who represents the life that Djay could have had given better decisions. An interesting reflection for both of them while working side by side each day when it comes clear that Djay’s opus could actually turn out to be everything they want it to be. They are joined by church pianist (DJ Squalls), a white boy that only seems out of place in a world of hip-hop and pimping but holds his own when he starts to grow into the role as a silent observer. Rounding off the wolf’s pack is Shug (Taraji P. Henson), Djay’s pregnant, subservient wife and the contentious Lexus (Paula Jai Parker), part-time hooker and part-time stripper.

Far from being formulaic, it’s actually a cynical imagining of an upbeat dreams-come-true, pseudo-romance story woven with an element of crime and melodrama. From its low angled, grimy shots of depravity infested Memphis; we can easily forget the romance of the music that has been borne from that part of the country. There are ideological chasms to leap over in order to enjoy its story. Some might try to and fail, while others might not. It’s prone to the weak colourisation of its supporting players while stirring its 2 strongest performers in Howard and Manning to fantastic and deeply unsettling exploits. But when looking through Howard’s fading eyes and infectious hangdog weariness, you might just realise that his song isn’t just one of misogynistic law-breaking but one of survival.

Movie Rating:

(Unconventionally cynical, brave and ultimately relies on its performances to steer things through the tight spaces)

Review by Justin Deimen

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