Friday, April 21, 2006


Terrence Howard Hustle and Flow Directed by Craig Brewer
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Before I start in on this review, I think I need to make a few things clear: 1) I don’t watch MTV, and 2) I don’t like rap music. Hopefully that will help put things in perspective for those who choose to read this because this isn’t a tale about a rapper nor about music; it’s the story of never giving up on one’s dreams, a universal theme that takes on an entirely new scope in writer/director Craig Brewers excellent film HUSTLE AND FLOW.

I didn’t much care for BOYZ 'N THE HOOD and I felt that 8-MILE was over-hyped, so I was hesitant to watch something with a similar sounding theme. But my worries were unfounded. Although what you’ve probably heard is true ("It’s the story of a pimp and his whores"), chances are you’re only getting a snapshot glimpse of this amazing character film by listening to such a basic definition.

Terrence Howard plays D’Jay the pimp, a good pimp, struggling to make ends meet by employing three women in his "crib". But a chance encounter with a music mixer whom he used to go to school with lifts his spirits and makes him feel as if he’s having a mid-life crisis. D’Jay’s attempts to cut his own music consume him, even to the point of using one of his employees’ skills to obtain a $250 microphone (sparking off a rather heated exchange, I might add).

The fact that the story takes place in Memphis added a genuine sense of realism to the film, too (from the down-and-out neighborhoods and on-location shoots near bridges and underpasses).

The actors — without exception — reached deep down into themselves and pulled up some of the finest performances of 2005. Every single actor in the movie LIVED those roles. All of the Oscar nominated films in 2005 (although this one wasn’t nominated for Best Picture) held a valid message, and I absolutely loved how different yet similar they were. GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, CAPOTE, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, CRASH and MUNICH all had amazing historical or cultural aspects littered throughout them, and HUSTLE AND FLOW is no exception; why it wasn’t nominated in the Best Picture category ahead of MUNICH is a mystery to me, though.

Never giving up on your dreams ("By any means necessary") is both the message of the film and of the film-makers. Watching the extra features on the DVD, I learned that the producers shopped around Hollywood for financial backing but couldn’t find any. Year after year and studio after studio, they got turned down. So, in the spirit of "let’s go and do it ourselves", they put their own money forward (a measly $8 million sunk into it from pre- to post-production).

If you haven’t seen this movie just because of what you’ve heard, you’re cheating yourself out of an excellent night of entertainment. Just remember, you don’t have to be young to enjoy the themes talked about here. This is dreaming at its ugliest and its best. Oh! And I still don’t like rap music, but I may be buying the music track to this film.

Click here for the Hustle & Flow movie trailer!

Oscar Award Winner: Best Song (Music)


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