After having one of my precious wisdom teeth forcibly ripped from my sensitive gums earlier that afternoon, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Friday night than with a rapping hustler and his gang of hookers, spittin’ over drugs, guns, sex and money. How fortunate I was to find that my movie of choice was baked with this very mixture.
Hustle & Flow is the story of DJay (Terrence Howard), a Memphis Pimp, who dreams of becoming a superstar in the vein of hometown hero, Skinny Black (Ludacris). Together with the help of his friends and working girls he heads about realising his vision whilst in the throws of a very manly mid life crisis.
In a similar style to Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, Howard takes hold of his role and delivers a performance that deserves a much better film to complement it and at times Hustle & Flow plays out much like a one man band. His DJay is a character with his own unique set of ticks and nuances that capture his current state and show the frustrated artist itching to be released completely from the shell. After this performance, anybody doubting Howard’s chances of rising toward the Hollywood A-list should pay special attention to his almost cathartic delivery in the second verse of ”Hustle & Flow (It Ain’t Ovah)”.
Despite Howard’s effort, Hustle & Flow doesn’t succeed in being anything more than an OK film. Writer/director Craig Brewer seems unsure of the type of film he’d like to make which is a shame because some aspects are outstanding. His dialogue is top-notch and his direction is fairly consistent in echoing the style of 70’s pimp cinema (complete with funky yellow opening titles). However, my main complaints lie in the sheer laziness of the way it tries to tackle some more weightier issues.
While the rest of the film was a delicate balancing act, it’s the final act that really tips the scales and makes its flaws glaringly apparent. After DJay finally approaches Skinny, the film begins to paint in too broader strokes, undermining the quiet focus of the previous ninety minutes. I’ll be careful not too give too much away here, but in ten minutes we move from a state of exaggerated realism to a jarringly unrealistic, fantastical and ultimately unsatisfactory ending that mixes comedy with a smattering of feel good weepie. Sounds confusing? Believe me, its placement within the context of the film has left me scratching my head since I left the theatre.
Directed by Craig Brewer