Anthony's Film Review
Hustle and Flow (2005)
A well-written story about changing one's life, and the music makes it worthwhile...
There is one reason why I'm fascinated with stories that involve ghettos and street crime. You can still have themes of hope and redemption despite the bleak setting and the main character's past. After all, what's important is not who the character is, but who the character wants to be. It's also important to recognize the character's persona in relation to others around him. If he is the only one who has morals and nobody else does, I consider that enough of a reason to appreciate him, even if he does things I don't agree with.
That is the case with the movie Hustle and Flow. Terrence Howard plays Djay, a pimp in Memphis, Tennessee. He is tired of the lifestyle. He is constantly worried about how much money could be made from the prostitutes he has. He also has marijuana to sell for additional income. He comes home to two prostitutes, one white and one black, as well as a third woman who is pregnant. Basically, the whole business of pimping is a struggle. He reaches a midlife crisis because of this.
One day, a homeless man comes up to Djay with a small electronic keyboard to sell. Djay takes it and plays with it for a while. He also runs into a childhood friend named Key, played by Anthony Anderson. These two moments give Djay the chance to pursue rap music and break free from his life of pimping. Since Key and his friend Shelby have knowledge of music recording, they help Djay set up a makeshift recording studio at his home.
Although the script is excellent, the music is the highlight of the film. I was engrossed in the scene where Djay, Key, and Shelby are slowly forming a song. It starts with a single sound in a rhythm, then another sound with its own rhythm is mixed in with the first. Soon, a catchy background music is formed out of about four different sounds. By the time Djay raps some lyrics he wrote, the characters are dancing to a catchy rap tune called "Whoop That Trick." Even I was into it.
Later, there is the other memorable song called "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," which won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Song. Djay also has one more important step to make: to promote his music. His only hope is a rapper named Skinny Black, played by Ludacris. It's interesting because he and Terrence Howard were also in the film Crash. The main difference is that Terrence Howard was the teacher in Crash, giving Ludacris a serious word of advice. In Hustle & Flow, Ludacris as Skinny Black is the expert, and Terrence Howard as Djay is desperate to give Skinny a demo tape to play in underground clubs.
Hustle and Flow works because of three things. One, the music is catchy and descriptive of Djay's experiences. Two, the script is intelligent. I like how the story humanizes each of the characters to a certain degree, not just Djay but also the prostitutes. It also helps one appreciate the appeal of rap music as an expression of life in the streets. Three, Terrence Howard gives a sharp performance as a character with both flaws and dreams. He also is a great rapper in the music scenes, which proves that he could have a music career if he wanted to. Overall, everything works together in the movie, but the music is what really gives it life.
For more information about Hustle and Flow, visit the Internet Movie Database.