Monday, March 27, 2006

Hustle and Flow

Hustle and Flow received a lot of critical flack when it first opened. Many critics, particularly, opined that the film depicted characters as stereotypes and cliches instead of as real individuals. I would guess that many of us know few pimps in our everyday lives, and even fewer pimps who want to be rap stars. But we do know people with dreams; people who aspire to something better than their current position in life, who will do whatever it takes to reach their goal. Cliche or not, this is the real plot of Hustle and Flow.

Terrence Howard plays Djay, a Memphis pimp and pot dealer who struggles to get by every day. He pimps his small stable of three girls out dirt-cheap from his car, and gives away more weed than he sells in return for favors from friends. He hits rock bottom when his utilities are cut off and his girls (one of which is pregnant; another who leaves him after a fight) stop producing. In his desperation, Djay turns to his childhood ambition of rap music as a means to survive.

Creating a song that receives airplay becomes an obsession, and takes over Djay's priorities. He struggles to find the hook that all pop and rap songs need to catch on with listeners. He becomes so narrowly focused and desperate that he takes a huge gamble near the end of the film that will either pay off huge, or cause him to fail miserably.

Terrence Howard gives Djay a human quality that allows the viewer to forget that he is a drug selling pimp, and forgive him for occasional outbursts of violence. Watching the character toss all his hopes and dreams into one make-it-or-break-it moment was compelling, and I found myself really rooting for the guy. I also discovered why the signature song from the film won an Oscar for Best Song. The creation of the song is so integral to the plot of the movie that it becomes almost a character itself. I highly recommend the flick. ***1/2

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