Hustle & Flow

Year: 2005
Directed By: Craig Brewer
Written By: Craig Brewer

RYAN’S REVIEW

In 2005 there was still a willful and adamant Eminem fan inside of me who got bitter when another rap song was awarded the Academy Award for best song.  I felt that it was quite a distinguishing honor for Eminem to be the first musician in his genre to receive the honor for his efforts on the 8 Mile soundtrackFor Three 6 Mafia to win the same award only years later seemed to sully the distinguishing nature of his accomplishment.  I had nothing against Three 6 Mafia, in fact I am a fan, but these guys winning the Academy Award was just bullshit, and still is in my opinion.  There is a stark difference between the work of Eminem and Three 6 Mafia regardless how talented they both may be, and I felt that Eminem was much more deserving of the award.  I took pride in the fact that he had won, he deserved it and the Academy made the right decision in awarding it to him.  I might like Three 6 Mafia, and I did like the song that they won for, but I imagine the competition was very low when they won because it just isn’t an Academy Award worthy song and doesn’t deserve to be in the same class as “Lose Yourself.”

I had never wanted to see this movie because I was bitter over it winning the award and for years avoided it altogether.  It was Amber who encouraged me to finally sit down and watch it, albeit I did so begrudgingly.  I was thoroughly shocked when I found the movie to be incredible, and it’s one I think about whenever I don’t want to listen to my wife’s recommendations. She was right about this one through and through.  I made the mistake of thinking it would be just another typical movie about a rapper but I found it to be so much more than that.  It’s about determination, about believing in something, and about a man trying to figure out who he really is. I am not necessarily a fan of Terrence Howard but he gave the performance of a lifetime in this movie.  He deserves any and all credit he gets in association with the role.

In preparation for this role Howard lived in Memphis for a time before shooting to learn the dialect and area better.  Not only that but he interviewed countless real life pimps and even lived with one for a while to get more into character. His efforts paid off in spades because he really had the role down, but he did so much more with the character.  He plays the kind of character that I would never give any thought to, a low down good for nothing pimp.  These men are vile people who do nothing but take advantage of the weak and exploit them for everything they are worth.  Howard’s DJay is dealing with the common problems that we all face; he is struggling to survive and doing the only thing he knows how to do.  He is stressed out and you can feel it when you see Howard’s performance. You want him to succeed despite what he has done to reach success. When he begins rapping I don’t think the viewer really expects him to be any good at it. His character does nothing up to that point that gives the impression he has anything more to offer the world.  It seems like he just making a desperate reach for something he has no business doing but when he starts you can clearly see he has talent.

I found the life of a pimp that Howard portrays to specifically be an eye opener. From the very beginning when the first trick rolls up and DJay tells him the rates for his girl.  “$20 in the front, $40 in the back.”  That just doesn’t seem like enough to me.  That poor girl has to do the nasty with five different men, the easy way, just to make 100 bucks. That’s just such an awful reality that I’m certain many poor and desperate women have to face every day. One thing I noticed and find myself really curious about is DJay’s car.  There is one panel on the front painted a different color.  Is this because DJay can’t afford any better, or is this a mark for the tricks? I wonder if the different colored panel is a message that he has a woman in the car. It seems like that could be the case but I don’t know.  If anybody actually knows the answer to this please let me know. His home with three different women was also quite a sight, the different sorts of lives some people lead can be hard to imagine sometimes.  You could literally fill a book with the kind of stories that would come out of that situation on a daily basis.

I think I’ve said enough about how great Terrence Howard was in this movie, now it’s time to move on to everyone else.  This movie had a great cast all around.  I am a really big fan of Anthony Anderson. I think every movie he is in is just that much better because he is in it.  He is well cast as the straight laced man who gets in business with a street criminal he knows from childhood.  I like that his wife is ultimately understanding of the situation and gets involved rather than the typical story line of just creating more drama over it.  Taryn Manning is incredible as Nola and the character was well written.  I find myself shocked to be pulling for the prostitute here too, but the girl is more than that.  She quietly suffers all the while listening and learning.  It is so awesome that she is the savior of the cause in the end, using all the cunning she has absorbed from a man who has to be cunning to be in business. DJ Qualls turns in one of his finest performances in this one.  I like Qualls but his strength lies in playing dorky guys who learn to party and get crazy. I thought he was really good in this one. Ludacris did well enough playing a part that should have come really naturally to him. Any rapper would have served though.  He is just a name and face to slap on the DVD cover.

As a big time South Park fan I must mention Isaac Hayes playing the part of the club owner who introduces DJay to Skinny Black.  Hayes of course was the long time voice of the beloved character Chef until Trey Parker and Matt Stone mocked Scientology on the show.  Hayes was a member of that organization/religion/cult until his untimely death in 2008 at the age of 65.  Nobody really talked about it but I thought it was a peculiar way to die.  He was found next to a moving treadmill and I think they eventually said he had died of a stroke but the whole thing just seemed too strange to me.  Yeah he was in the age range to have a stroke, but given that he is involved in Scientology I think the circumstances of his death are very peculiar. If you research into Scientology you will find no end to strange and unusual things that have happened but the most disturbing part is the knack members have of disappearing and dying suddenly under unusual circumstances.  Scientology is a dangerous organization that goes ignored by far too many people.  The largest infiltration of a government organization in this country’s history was perpetrated by members of Scientology who infiltrated the IRS in an effort to get their “church” tax exempt status.  This group included the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison.  Despite all this the organization has flourished and continues to do so, I find it alarming.  I’m going to call it here and now, one day Tom Cruise will run for President and he will likely win in this country where the masses can so easily be manipulated. If Schwarzenegger can become governor of the largest state in the country then one of America’s favorite movie stars can get elected to its highest office.  I fear the possibility but honestly believe it is coming.  Cruise is the Scientologists greatest asset and they will eventually try to use him to get into real power.  Excuse the long tangent, but I believe for whatever reason the strange and sudden death of Isaac Hayes has something to do with the religious organization he was involved with.

Now back to the movie, I think the greatest thing about this movie is the ending.  It leaves you with so many possibilities ahead for our main character.  As an aspiring rap artist there isn’t much more he can do to get famous aside from doing time for beating down a big time rapper and shooting one of his crew.  To come out with his music on the radio, the sky is the limit for him.  He has become the new “Skinny Black” as two guards persuade him to listen to their demo on his way out of prison. DJay walks out of the prison with his head high, a look of confidence that is unmistakable on his face.  He knows things are looking up now, and he walks into freedom ready to take over the world.

This is a fantastic movie that I have really looked forward to reviewing.  I enjoyed watching it as much this time as I did the first time and there is a lot to be said about a movie like that. This movie is more than worth your time and I think you should go out of your way to see it.  Three 6 Mafia may not have deserved an Academy Award for their song, but the movie does deserve any and all credit that was bestowed upon it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I tried to get Ryan to watch this movie a million times. I kept saying, I know what you think it’s about, and it is but it’s really, really great. I think this movie is wonderful. It tells the story of a pimp and his girls and their struggle in the world. I love how the director of this movie tells us the story of someone different than us, but he is having the same struggles that we all face. Working to have enough money to just feed everyone. We really see him trying to change and become something better for the girls and child he considers family. I love this flick. It’s a good one.

Hmmmm. I just struggle with this one so much. I like the typography and symmetrical lines that frame the title, but I honestly think the rest of it is really messy. I hate when they fade out people’s heads. There are two big heads fading into the body of Terrance Howard. The car at the top is just a half car inverted on the other side. There are more heads fading out up at the top beside the title and outside of the lines. They just had to get everyone in there. Some things are better when you see them in the movie for the first time…this one is giving everyone away.

NEXT MOVIE: In Bruges (2008)

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