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00640 – HUSTLE & FLOW

MovieHype00640 – HUSTLE & FLOW

{Nominated for Best Actor (Terrance Howard) and Best Original Song}

You know it's hard out here for a pimp (you ain't knowin)
When he tryin to get this money for the rent (you ain't knowin)
For the Cadillacs and gas money spent (you ain't knowin)
Because a whole lot of bitches talkin shit (you ain't knowin)

If you read the preceding lyrics (from the chorus of the Oscar-nominated “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”), and thought, ‘Not in a million years,’ I think you know all you need to know. There is no way you will be able to enter into the world of HUSTLE & FLOW, the Multi-Oscar-nominated film from director Craig Brewer.

Still not sure? Let me try another. At one point DJay, played by Terrance Howard, as a Pimp/Drug Dealer trying to make it as a rapper, starts in his first attempt to record a song, “Beat That Bitch.” (If it helps, he’s actually talking about a guy, but one assumes if casual misogyny is your problem you’ve already stopped reading.) It is pointed out to DJay that radios are not likely to play a song with such a violent title.

Luckily, DJay has other ways to say this, and starts in “Stomp That Ho.” Eh, not quite. Finally he provides “Whoop That Trick,” and everybody is happy.

You really have to know what you’re getting into with HUSTLE & FLOW. (H&F from now on.) The main character really is a pimp. And he really is a drug dealer. These are two things I don’t identify with very well. Perhaps it is a testament to how good a performance Terrance Howard gave that somehow I was able to enter that world, to empathize and understand even though I felt initial revulsion.

In fact—and I don’t say this lightly—by the end I actually started thinking about what a good pimp I’d make. Me! The guy who doesn’t even like terms like Pimpmobile or Pimp My Ride. I always felt there was a lessening of what prostitutes go through, which is not helping them out.

Yet here I found myself wondering if—had different choices been made, had I been born in a different place with a different skin—if my natural protective nature might not have served as an excellent pimp. (I already am a good salesman.) Such is the power and draw of H&F.

The buzz on Terrance Howard’s nomination was that it came partly for his stellar work in CRASH. (Matt Dillon had the flashier and nominated role, but I felt that Howard’s work was the lynchpin of the film.) It’s probably true, but I’m here to tell you that Howard more than deserves his Oscar nomination here for his tortured DJay.

In both roles, Howard excels at giving us men who hate who and what they are, and yearn for something more. In CRASH, Howard is a TV director, assumed to be white by his black friends, thought to know of all things black by the White Man. It tears at him.

In H&F, Howard’s DJay really is a pimp. He really does sling dope. He takes care of his bidness, and he’s not above using his girls to get what he needs.

But his heart’s not in it. He wants to be something more. You can see the torture in his eyes, as well as the burning desire to get out of this life.

I don’t write all this to excuse him. The movie doesn’t tap dance around what he does. But neither does it judge him, what he does. There are plenty of movies that open up that conversation. What H&F is trying to do is give us a man trying to overcome what he is.

This is a hell of a lot harder than you think, and before you pass judgment on DJay, and his life, you ask yourself if you’ve overcome who you are.

Hyperion’s Rating Guide

Suspension of Disbelief: 1. The streets are as real as it gets. Only the ending stretches a bit, and by then you’ll cheerfully go along.

Genre Grade: Is this an Urban Tale or a Rags To Riches Story? Either way I give H&F an A.

Sex/Violence? Strangely, though the girls are hookers and one is a stripper, there is virtually no nudity. There’s very little violence, either. Yet I would strongly caution that this movie isn’t for children. The language alone….

Family Friendly? If your family was taught there is only one use of the word “nigger,” then they’ll have a coronary watching. And yet, I’m actually tempted to make my parents watch. I’m curious if they could get past all of that and see the films thumping heart.

Asskickability: Huge. For a movie without Ninjas, about as high as they can go. 80.

Pantheon Percentile: H&F was obviously a labor of love, and at times the miniscule budget comes through in some short cuts they took. This lack of production values in no way tainted my enjoyment, and in some cases might have helped. Still, it does knock the film down a few pegs in the overall scheme of things, and the fact that most people couldn’t stomach his life probably does too. 75.

H&F is carried by Howard, but the supporting characters carry the movie from a character study to a worthy film. I’ve liked Anthony Anderson since I saw him in ROMEO MUST DIE. And we get a DJ Qualls sighting! (When Qualls shows up at the pimp’s door, in that neighborhood, in a shirt and tie, white as rice and 80 lbs soaking wet, DJay takes one look at him and says, “You Mormons are brave Muthaf****as.”

I have liked Qualls in everything I’ve ever seen him in (ROAD TRIP, THE NEW GUY, et al), and am so high on him I’ll go this far: if I was forced to sleep with a skinny white guy, it’d be him.

Then there’s the women, the hoes, as they are referred to (when they’re not called bitch). Lola and Shug, and they’ll break your heart. Again, the movie doesn’t try to make any statement. Their life is their life, and it’s not pretty. DJay is Lola’s pimp, and he uses her as he needs her. Shug is a pregnant woman, so stupid and yet…her heart….well, you’ll see.

Besides the acting, what makes H&F for me was the sound. Not just the music, which I really dug, got into. There’s just a lot of noise. In this way Craig Brewer really captured life in the ghetto. I used to live there, and it’s one thing you find missing from most movies: people talking all the time, babies crying; no one shutting up. The streets of Memphis are captured here with an authenticity that almost goes to a documentary.

Rereading what I wrote, I realize I failed to capture the essence of what makes H&F a great movie. For rock solid certain I don’t think many people would like it. They will be offended at the language, the demeanor, the way women are treated. And rightly so. But for those who can look past that, who can enter into this world and see it through DJay’s eyes; what a powerful film about what you always wished you could be, but scarcely dared to dream.

1 comment:

Mysteria said...

I came home last night and them mofos was watching this movie with out me after asking a week ago if I wanted to see it. I seen the part where he goes to jail and the end. after seeing this review I think I going to go home and whoop me some tricks!!! Just kidding, really I just needed to vent. Great review.

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