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July 2005

By Wilson Morales

Hustle & Flow

Distributor: Paramount Classics
Director: Craig Brewer
Producers: John Singleton and Stephanie Allain and Dwight Williams
Screenwriter: Craig Brewer
Cast: Terrence Dashon Howard, DJ Quills, Ludacris, Taryn Manning, Anthony Anderson, Isaac Hayes, Tariji P. Henson, Elise Neal, and Paula Jai Parker


One of the amazing things about independent films is that a lot of hearts and souls go into the production of a film. There is no big budget or much special effects involved in the making of it. It's all about the acting and the script that makes the film appealing to an audience. Sometimes a lot of these independent films have stories that major studios reject because they can't sell it to a mainstream audience. This is where the producers of the film come into play. It's their belief and passion in the film that propels them to sell whatever it takes to get the film off the ground and running. One such film is "Hustle and Flow". Here's a small film that was directed by newcomer Craig Brewer and produced by John Singleton and Stephanie Allain. Brewer hails from Virginia and chose for his lead role an actor that some have known but not on a bigger level, Terrence Howard. Howard has been around for a good minute capitalizing on roles that made him shine such as "The Best Man", "Dead Presidents" and more recently, "Lackawanna Blues" and "Crash". Not only is "Hustle and Flow" a raw and impressive piece of work, but Howard is incredible as the pimp who tries to straighten out his life by rapping his way out of Memphis. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and coming out in theaters through Paramount Classics, "Hustle and Flow" is a moving, entertaining, and gritty tale filled with explosion and laughter. Howard not only has a career making performance in the film, but the entire cast is phenomenal.

DJay (Howard) is a small time pimp from Memphis who only has one girl, Nola (Manning), a white girl, currently working for him. He has no office or alley that he works out of. His only means of travel and business is his Cadillac. One of the other girls, Shug (Henson) is pregnant while another, Lexus (Parker), works at a strip joint to pay the bills. DJay also sells weed on the side and one day when he visits one of his buyers (Hayes) and hears that a successful rapper, Skinny Black (Ludacris) who came from the same hood is coming back in town for the 4th of July, DJay decides to change his life. Coincidentally, he buys a kid's piano from a drug addict and hooks up with an old schoolmate "Key" (Anderson) who plays the keyboards for a local church. It's not easy convincing anyone that you can make it when all you know are curse words and the life you live; but when Shelby, a white boy Key included in the group, tells him that his life is what people want to hear because it's raw and the truth, DJay refines his approach. The only is money and connection. With Nola as his only "investment" and Skinny Black as a possible connection, DJay does his best to get all the negativity surrounding him out of his life and does what he does to succeed.

There's a lot more that goes on within the film, but why spoil the fun of seeing such a fabulous film? What this film represents is a dream come true for all involved. It's a dream come true for Brewer, who took a small film and won the hearts of many to have it be brought to the big screen. For Howard, after many years of playing scene stealing character roles, this is his "career-making" role of a lifetime. He personifies the individual who wants to change his life but finds it hard to do when he's a product of the environment, and the force is too strong to walk away. He should garner an Oscar nomination if justice has it way. Anderson not only does well with his character but he tells every producer out there he can do a serious role without having to be funny. Henson, Manning, Quills and Parker each play their roles with a lot of zest and emotion. The film also represents how hard it is to make it in the music world through rapping. Most rappers come from a hard-knock's life and telling their story is what got some of them famous such as The Notorious B.I.G, Tupac, and Jay-Z, and this film illustrates the way some of them came from. Grinding it out and hustling. While it's easy to talk about the greatness within the film, there are a few flaws and darkness that some may not comfortable with such the stereotypical view of a pimp's life. Is it okay for a pimp like DJay to sell women to make end's meat, yet be portrayed in a likeable view? Not all will agreed with the way Brewer chose to handle this, but one thing's for certain, his writing is on par with reality and you just have to deal with it. Not everything can be sugarcoated. The music in the film is filled with a lot of crunk flavored rap and some of it is very catchy. The song "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" will be in the minds of many once they leave the theater. "Hustle and Flow" is surely the feel good film of the summer, filled with laughter, romance, and music. You will definitely be pleased.