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HUSTLE & FLOW review

Hey folks, Harry here... Sometimes you walk into a screening thinking you'll be bored shitless with a film. That was the case this past SXSW week, when separate from the film fest, I was asked to see Craig Brewer's HUSTLE & FLOW. It was described in advance as being a hip hop rap flick, and given I'm just not your typical Hip Hop & Rap fan... I was checking it out only because it had racked up the awards at SUNDANCE and I figured there had to be something to it.

Now, don't get me wrong... I've enjoyed many films with Hip Hop and Rap - but it just isn't my music of choice. I invited most of the AICN crowd to come check this flick out - and there was only about 9 people in the theater. The director, Craig Brewer had flown in to chat with me after I saw the film... this always makes me nervous as fuck. I'm sure his nerves weren't the best either. He seemed like a nice enough guy - but hell - I hear Paul W.S. Anderson is a sweetheart and his shit is rank. The lights went down and the movie played...

Holy Shit! Right from the film font - I realized I'd been sucker punched. This wasn't some churned out of the mass-market mill flick - this film was made by a filmmaker that completely understands genre iconography. The filmmaking on HUSTLE & FLOW is so astute it reminds me of two other filmmakers working today. Filmmakers that have taken the exploitation genres of the seventies and raised them to a new level. Like Tarantino did to the Kung Fu Revenge flick and Edgar Wright Jr did to the Zombie flick - Craig Brewer has done to Blaxploitation - specifically the sub-genre of "PIMP WITH A DREAM" this is separate from the regular "Pimp" flick. Most Pimp flicks have to do with a guy who just wants to be the biggest badass of pimps... or the get rich quick game. Pimp with a Dream is a sub-genre where the pimp in question absolutely hates his life, it's eating away at him. He feels his life drying and cracking with each passing hour. Where he can feel the breath of the cops on the back of his neck, where he's in the biz on the short term - but that short term has become his life. Really - the best Pimp With A Dream flick prior to HUSTLE & FLOW was SUPERFLY.

I fucking love SUPERFLY. The music, that damn car, the threads and most definitely Superfly himself. He was a tanker truck of testosterone and Mad Max was at the wheel. The world was closing in and it was time to jump ship into a new life. It was being played for the exploitation levels it was creating, but there was a sadness and a resoluteness to Superfly that was hard to deny.

Now comes HUSTLE & FLOW. The 'hero' pimp of the story... he doesn't drive a car that looks like shit. However, the way Terrence Dashon Howard treats it... and the way Craig Brewer films it - the car - with its scrapes and primer coats, dents and odd noises... it is an extension of the man driving it. Cold and no nonsense from the exterior - but hot, tired and all real inside. The film isn't set in the big city - rather he lives in Memphis - in the low rent 'burbs area of town. Lawns slightly overgrown - houses no longer in their prime. The sort of place you rarely get out of, if you're stuck there. His 'tricks'? These aren't the fantasy whores of Hollywood - they're sweaty, mouthy and get the job done. You don't get the idea he beats them, physically that is... but he is a manipulator that dishes out cruelty and tenderness in equal loads - so they never get the idea of leaving or questioning him. He is a tower of confidence - he has to be. These women are all he has. This is his business, for what it is... They pull tricks, he collects the money, buys drugs, sells those and eeks out rent and expenses and not much more.

He's hit the age of his father when his father had him, and he's at that midlife crisis. Somebody he used to know has hit it big as hip hop rap artist and he remembers being better than that guy back in High School. He's got a narrow opportunity to put this crazy idea of his down... and mayuhn, he's gonna do it.

As much as the film is about a Pimp With A Dream... it is also the amazing story of garage music publishing and creation. It's hip hop stripped down to its essentials and mixed with a fucking hot as hell sound. You kinda sit there and watch this group of actors creating something that doesn't at all seem scripted or artificial. It feels vital and alive and happening right before your eyes. The performances are all the best work of all actors and actresses involved. Anthony Anderson is PERFECT in his role. DJ Qualls - never better. The two women in the house - my god. Break your heart in two. And then there's Terrence Dashon Howard. He is a major star waiting to happen, and in this film, that star happens. He is absolutely fucking great. The film works on every possible emotional level. And the music is so damn cool.

How good is this film? My father - who despises Rap with a passion and thinks Hip Hop and Rap has nearly destroyed modern musical culture altogether... was moved to tears multiple times by the film. I mean - he fricking LOVED the film and went in wishing he was anywhere, but there.

Now folks - I want to tell ya something. I didn't set out to write a review here. I was just writing an introduction to a trailer and kinda got carried away. Just thinking about the film got me to Elmer Gantry-itis. I'm going to be setting up a screening with Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse / Rolling Roadshow to bring Craig Brewer to town with this film. And we're going to have a damn fine time. Why? Because I went from being resistent to just wanting to watch the flick, to a point where I just can't wait to share the film with a larger audience in a way that only Mr League and I can do at one of our Mickey & Judy shows.

The film hits this summer - and folks do not miss it. This is the very best film I've seen this year thus far - we've got a long ways to go still, but this movie has lingered in my mind fairly consistently for 2 months now. And I know when we screen this sucker later this year - and I see it with a full on audience. It's going to be magic.

In the meanwhile - Here's the Trailer, personally I feel there's a few images that I wouldn't want to give the audience, but then if you don't have the context of the film, I s'pose it wouldn't much matter. Key thing about the film is this... Watch Craig Brewer (the director) and Terrence Dashon Howard. Both of these guys are going to be hitting homeruns often.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 4, 2005, 11:45 p.m. CST

    Sounds good

    by AeroB

    Sounds like the shit, but then, when has Harry given a movie a bad review lately... guess I'll check it out and see if I like though. Oh, and... first? Maybe.

  • May 4, 2005, 11:47 p.m. CST

    Will be giving this one a look

    by Terry_1978

    Might be a contender for one of the more decent flicks to come out this year, hopefully.

  • May 5, 2005, 12:14 a.m. CST

    Craig Brewer was at SLIFF a few years ago

    by stlfilmwire

    He was at SLIFF for The Poor and the Hungry. The guy kicks ass. He charmed the piss out of the Q&A audience. He quickly became the voice of reason.

  • May 5, 2005, 12:31 a.m. CST

    Hustle & Flow

    by Darth Thoth

    I hear this flick is absolutely amazing. I'm glad and can't wait to see it.

  • May 5, 2005, 12:42 a.m. CST

    Good Stuff

    by elibraden

    ... is to be found at

  • May 5, 2005, 1:26 a.m. CST

    Damn Nigga'

    by SnowMann

    You craaaaaazy.

  • May 5, 2005, 1:30 a.m. CST

    Superfly a pimp?

    by Agent-1375

    Umm......Hey Harry, i think Priest from Superfly was a drug dealer, not a pimp. If you want to see a film about a pimp that finds out that he needs to straighten his life out, I recommend "Willie Dynamite" with Roscoe Orman. Get your facts straight man!

  • May 5, 2005, 6:27 a.m. CST


    by darthferris

    Technically impossible, I know. But hey. Seriously, though, I'm psyched about seeing this. Release date anyone?

  • i'm very interested.

  • I'll put this guy in the same class as Jeffrey Wright and Sam Rockwell. All 3 are outstanding character actors who always steal whatever scenes/movies they're in. I hope this film is as good as the hype, because most films getting this kinda hype out of Sundance usually suck (Girlfight, Blue Car, Manito)and end up bombing at the boxoffice. Nobody deserves it more than Terrence Howard.

  • May 5, 2005, 12:06 p.m. CST

    I used to kind of be a rap and hip-hop hater--

    by Batutta

    Until a rap saavy friend pointed me in the right direction and showed me the good stuff. That's the problem with rap and hip-hop. There's so much awful stuff out there it's almost not worth sifting through to get to the few good nuggets, but I did and damn it if I can't get the lyrics to Ice-Cube's Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit out of my head.

  • May 5, 2005, 12:38 p.m. CST

    There is a very good article about Terrence Howard and this film

    by Lost Skeleton

    Howard has been out for a long time...similar to Don Chedle in that he has always played these great supporting actors (usually dark charaters). If you read the EW article, the guy is really conflicted like his character in Hustle and Flow. He really does not want to be a star but this flick is getting so much buzz, he probably will be. I feel goog that Mr. Howard is finally getting his due but it seems like he doesn't want the acclaim. I can't wait to see this

  • May 5, 2005, 2:51 p.m. CST

    A pimp with a heart of gold?!? Yeesh.

    by Lance Rock

  • May 5, 2005, 5:20 p.m. CST

    Typical Liberal Lovefest

    by Thunderballs

    Why am I not surprised that white liberals like Harry, and the sort you find at Sundance, LOVE a cheesy movie like this? I could have predicted that some bullshit like this would happen. I can;t wait until they make Gangsta Clone or Big Pimpin' so AICN and all the other white liberals jump all over it. Why do movies about African Americans always have to be about crime and rap? A movie like this is fucking racist, which is why white Libs eat this shit up, cause white Libs are some of the most racist motherfuckers you'll ever meet. I for one will not be seeing this movie cause I don't give money to support stereotypes and racism. Why can't we see any movies about African Americans that show them as something other than sports or rap stars or drug dealers? I am so sick of the insidious racism in the movie industry. Matrix is the one exception that showed African Americans in a normal light, and not as thugs and shit. Of course, in Liberal Hollywood, a movie that shows African Americans as normal is sci-fi. Fuck this shit!

  • May 5, 2005, 6:53 p.m. CST

    18th! Yeah!

    by jesuschrist

    Eat it bitches!

  • May 5, 2005, 10:11 p.m. CST

    Not sure I quite buy that Thunderballs...

    by AeroB

    I do agree that white Liberals can be pretty racist, but there are many notable exceptions to what you stated as the norm... most any movie with Denzel as an example... and hell, Morgan Freeman played God himself. Then there's Will Smith's stuff. Much of Sam L. Jackson's and Laurence Fishburne's (as you noted pointing out The Matrix). I think 15-20 years ago you would have been dead on, but today black stars can headline movies and often play roles outside of the stereotypes you pointed out.

  • May 5, 2005, 10:28 p.m. CST

    It's good

    by FreeJack

    I saw it quite a while back and like Harry says, even if you don't like rap (and I can't stand it), you might end up liking this movie. The performances are all great and even though I hate the style of music, I admit there's something fascinating about "rising up outta the ghetto" stories. At least, for anybody who isn't living it...

  • May 5, 2005, 10:42 p.m. CST


    by Thunderballs

    I see your point, but most of the stars you mentioned are not in movies meant to portray black culture. They are simply stuck into a script where the lead can really be any ethnicity or color. Any movie that is ABOUT African Americans always descends into stereotypes and racist caricatures. The only exception is Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, but that motherfucker sold out long ago, and hasn't really made a good film since Malcolm X. But Do The Right Thing is a fucking masterpiece, because it is REAL, and portrays many different types of folks, with different points of view. Hustle and Flow is garbage. I am so sick of the hip-hop culture taking over everything. It promotes materialism and stupidity, two things this country needs less of.

  • May 5, 2005, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Terrence Howard

    by FlickChick

    The man has been amazing for years, but I think Hollywood has made him jaded. It's not that he's not wanting fame, it's that he's stealing himself for not getting what he deserves....Again. I guess it's some kind of poetic justice that a REAL actor is playing a rap artist vs. the other way around (which is so popular these days). P.S. An example of how Hollywood messed him over, Colin Ferrell got a cool mil for Hart's War and a big push from the media, only his second Hollywood film. Terrence Howard an actor who's been working in Hollyweird for years with critical about a 1/3 of that.

  • May 6, 2005, 5:11 a.m. CST

    White Liberals and Thunderballs

    by Sicuv Uyall

    There are plenty of movies out there where African-Americans aren't portrayed as stereotypes. I'm sick of all you people (thus my name)who make this site a forum for you opinion about black people, rap music, your hard on for Star Wars and basically how tiny your penises are. Fuck you and all your opinions.... I'M OUT!!!

  • May 6, 2005, 4:32 p.m. CST

    TDH has got game!

    by Hud

    He can definitely put it down. This looks good. Only thing that didn't wow me, oddly enough, was the music! Weak beats, five-year-old rudimentary Dirty South rhymes

  • May 8, 2005, 1:40 p.m. CST

    "DJ Qualls- Never better."

    by samizdat

    Just HAD to make fun of THAT sentence.

  • May 10, 2005, 10:55 a.m. CST

    Is his dream to stop being a fuckin misogynist?

    by CommanderJesus

    As if "pimp" was an acceptable career path. He doesn't beat his women? Wow. My hero.

  • May 26, 2005, 7:54 p.m. CST

    Dirty South

    by roger niner

    Why I want to check this out: A.) Issac Hayes. Have to see it. B.) Dirty South is a new genre in rap music. This movie looks to actually explore what the culture is about. I didn't see "8-mile" because I don't like Eminem. But i'll see this because I love movies that look at culture through music. C.) The white kid. Perfect. Skinny little audio engineer who loves hip-hop and makes some amazing beats. I know these guys. They embrace the music like no other. The writer/director knows this culture very well. It looks like a good drama.

  • June 18, 2005, 1:49 p.m. CST

    Hustle & Flow

    by Jukbox2

    You had me at Terrance D. Howard!!

  • June 28, 2005, 6:35 p.m. CST

    could be good but...

    by newknuckles

    its certainly racism that partly keeps TH down int he snese the white actors get the big paychecks faster, sure. But I'm surprised poeple don't seem to remember several incedents in his relatively short career of domestic violence: loud, violent confrontations with his wife, and an altercation with a flight attendant. I particularly rememember him doing a muhammad ali TV movie that had garnered him heaps of praise and then the stewardess thing happened.

  • July 12, 2005, 12:54 p.m. CST


    by TarajisAuntMo

    Taraji has done it again. She is a great Actress with a beautiful spirit. She also has a heart of gold. This is only the beginning of her stardom as we will see great things from Taraji. I LOVE YOU TARAJI. Aunt Mo'. Please join her Official Fan Club to show your support.

  • July 14, 2005, 11:16 a.m. CST


    by Bean_

  • July 20, 2005, 3:39 p.m. CST

    A Movie About a Black Guy Trying to Make it as a RAPPER?

    by Pie_Man_Returns

    That'll NEVER work.