Hustle & Flow Reviews
Hustle & Flow is notorious for having received two Academy Award nominations. These are for the leading performance of Terrence Howard and for the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" by Three Six Mafia. This recognition serves as a signifier to the two elements that drive the entire film, the quality of the acting and the music. Although the Hustle & Flow maintains many strong elements, these are the two greatest things about the film which make it unforgettable, ensuring that the focus of the feature as a character-driven tale about the power of rap music is achieved.
Riding Craig Brewer's tenacious directorial work along with the production effort of passionate filmmaker John Singleton is recognized for being outspoken about black-themed films, Hustle & Flow is an all new look at the strength of music. Being an independent film, Hustle & Flow works around the countless limitations bestowed upon filmmakers by production studios and goes out of its way to tell the story straight. The story in Hustle & Flow is one which is not based on any single person's life, yet it is reminiscent of countless tales of redemption in the lives of hip hop musicians who have pulled themselves out of lives of crime to find solace in the music arts. The story itself isn't what matters, it's the characters. Beneath them there isn't much of a story at all, it's simply a collection of familiar settings which play out as the characters talk about what they're feeling and doing. To sustain this, the dialogue in the screenplay remains engaging as the characters reveal more about their relationships with each other and how they can contribute to Djay expressing himself through music. The language is real, and there are no sudden melodramatic plot dynamics that don't fit. The dialogue even uses stereotypically street speak to create some sporadic moments of humour which comes from the sassy nature of some of the street-educated characters exchanging banter. In that sense, there is a strong sense of reality in Hustle & Flow.
And encouraging that is a really gritty atmosphere. Without too much happening, the events that happen in Hustle & Flow hit hard and are reinforced by Craig Brewer's sense of style. The slow movement of things benefits from a raw examination of street life, with all the violence, sex and drugs that comes with it. Instead of pummelling viewers with archetypes and cliche characters, Hustle & Flow lives up to its name and lets the story flow which means it develops naturally. While its doing that, Craig Brewer puts strong effort into capturing on-location scenery to fill his movie with imagery. With filters playing with the frame, there is a sense of grey light that shines over Hustle & Flow throughout the movie during its daytime sequences while the night sequences use the most minimal lighting to still make sure everything is perfectly comprehensible and clear.
But above all the visual elements is the fact that Hustle & Flow is a rap movie, and it is more a treat on the ears than the eyes. With Terrence Howard and various musicians contributing to the soundtrack, Hustle & Flow has some unforgettable beats to the name of "Whoop That Trick" and the Academy Award winning "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" among others. The songs tackle the concept of street violence without an excess of profanity, though there is certainly enough there to keep things edgy. The tunes are catchy and there is a genuine sense of story lying behind all the words because it ties into the narrative very well. The music plays out as diegetic whenever the characters perform or non-diegetic at many other times, effectively keeping the mood groovy consistently.
And of course, the Academy Award nominated skills of Terrence Howard are a sure crowd pleaser. The instant the man comes on screen and delivers a poetic monologue in a contrasting street tone of voice, viewers are instantly treated to a pimp character of depth that has never been seen before. The entire movie, Terrence Howard is able to amalgamate a deep level of humanity with the edgy nature of a pimp. Though the man has moments of aggressive outbursts, they are sporadic while the scenes in between depict him expressing his artistic musical talents and trying to find meaning in the life that he shares with the people around him. Like I said, Terrence Howard and the music are the two best things about Hustle & Flow. So when they combine in the scene when Djay finally expresses himself through singing "Whoop That Trick" is one of the most inspired scenes in the entire film. Terrence Howard's performance is remarkable and most certainly the greatest of his career as it signifies his ability to carry an entire film on his shoulders while putting depth into a usually shallow archetype and rapping all in the one role. That's a hell of an achievement, and it's the most human part of Hustle & Flow.
Anthony Anderson also delivers one of his greatest efforts. Though arguably most well-known for his comedic efforts, Hustle & Flow serves as a front for him to exercise some brilliant dramatic chops. There isn't a moment where he doesn't take his role extensively seriously and push himself to his maximum potential. He is so direct with every other character, whether his interactions are intense or sentimental. And because of that, he commands the role and takes his own stand as another seriously meaningful character in Hustle & Flow, sharing some beautiful scenes with Terrence Howard where he reaches down into the depths of his soul or gets in on the rapping.
Taraji P. Henson also makes a marvellous effort. With a beautiful singing talent, the tone of voice Taraji P. Henson delivers reflects a sense of vulnerability in the woman which she diverts into capturing the charms and hearts of the audiences when she really has to dig into the sadder side of the character. Her chemistry with Terrence Howard is so powerful that it has a genuine feeling of love to it, and so the relationship that develops between the two of them absolutely essential to the film. Taraji P. Henson's small amount of time on screen proves to make a big impact on the story in Hustle & Flow.
Taryn Manning also does a great job. The actress who also appeared in 8 Mile crosses over to Hustle & Flow, ensuring that she has appeared in two of the greatest all time movies to ever chronicle rap music. She captures apowerfully convincing street trash demeanour which she uses to her advantage later in the film where she talks about how she's worth more before later going out and proving it, sufficiently developing her own supporting character within a mere handful of scenes. Taryn Manning is a natural talent, and manages to add another great character to a film loaded with them.
So Hustle & Flow may have a simple story, but the great characters, remarkable performances and unforgettable music make it truly one of cinema's finest films to breathe depth into the rap game.
A small-time hustler in Memphis, Tennessee reaches a crossroads in his life. Pondering what to do next him and a few friends start to record hip-hop music, written by him, in his house. It's good but will it get them anywhere?
Good, engaging plot. There's a grittiness and realness which makes the story so appealing. The characters are hardly perfect people, which makes the whole experience so much more plausible.
Solid direction by Craig Brewer (who also wrote the script). I'm not a hip-hop fan but the soundtrack works very well.
Terrance Howard is solid in the lead role and gets great support from Taryn Manning, especially, Anthony Andersen, Taraji J Henson and Ludacris. DJ Qualls is the token white guy in the cast, and is, as almost always, fairly irritating.
Worth a watch.