HUSTLE & FLOW
Review by Gordon Justesen
Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai
Parker, Elise Neal, D.J. Qualls, Ludacris
Director: Craig Brewer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: January 10, 2006
If last year had
any pivotal breakthrough success for an actor, it was easily Terrence Howard.
After delivering many memorable supporting roles in films such as Dead
Presidents and Hart’s War, Howard has officially made his mark as a truly
powerful acting presence. He was of the big standouts in Crash as a racially afflicted television producer, and now with Hustle
and Flow Howard has delivered a performance for the history books.
The film, which
deservedly won the audience award at Sundance last year, is one of the more
unforgettable character studies I’ve experienced. It does more than focus on a
character, but it does nothing short of immerse the viewer in the character’s
surroundings and struggles. Every move the character makes, we are right there
Howard plays DJay,
a Memphis pimp who has rationalized his every move since the day he got into
such a profession. It’s not the life he originally planned for, but he is a
businessman out to make a dollar, no matter how bad the struggle. He is a smart
individual who grew up under not the best of circumstances, leading to his
One day, DJay gets
an epiphany. After running into a former school pal named Key (Anthony
Anderson), who soundproofs music equipment at churches, and witnessing a
powerful music performance from a choir singer, DJay acknowledges his true
calling. With the help of Key and an additional music specialist named Shelby (D.J.
Qualls), DJay plans to cut a hip-hop demo tape and leave his pimp days behind.
One of the
invigorating aspects of Hustle and Flow
is the way it shows the musical process of cutting a demo tape. DJay gets into
his mode, as he refers to, where he bursts out any choice set of rhymes. He
delivers the words, and Key and Shelby provide the appropriate beat. The cutting
of the first track, titled “Whoop That Trick”, is one sequence that will get
into your system, big time.
But as he’s
starting to make his dream a pure reality, DJay still has to worry about his
three female employees under his about-to-be former profession. One of them,
Shug (Taraji P. Henson), has a baby on the way, while another, Lexus (Paula Jai
Parker) is always consistently feuding with him. Then there’s Nola (Taryn
Manning), who is promised to become DJay’s business partner, even if it means
turning tricks in order to obtain certain necessities, such as a microphone from
a pawn shop.
And how does DJay
plan on getting his voice heard? Huge rap star Skinny Black (Ludacris), who came
right from Memphis, is returning home for a fourth of July party. It is there
that DJay, who claims to know Skinny Black real well from back in the day, plans
to make his move and give his demo tape to Skinny, ensuring a future in the
As of now, Hustle
and Flow has become the all around best film about rap music to date,
surpassing even 8 Mile. It has a sense of realism to its story, as well as pure
authenticity to its setting. The fact that rap music’s important relation to
the South is mentioned is more than enough to make me cheer. And then there’s
Terrence Howard, who has truly given the most astonishing and emotionally
involving screen performance since that of Sean Penn in Mystic River, which is the highest form of praise I can think of.
and Flow is a dynamic
character study of the highest order, filled with characters and music that will
both strike your soul simultaneously.
anamorphic transfer (Full Screen available separately), is immense in terrific
quality. Director Craig Brewer and cinematographer Amy Vincent have brought a
superbly authentic look to Memphis, a city rarely explored in the movies, and it
translates very well to the format. Despite one instance of noticeable grain,
the presentation is, for the most part, as incredibly clear and detailed as can
The 5.1 mix shines
greatly. Even though the film is a dialogue driven piece, there are bits of
music that work the sound system in some outstanding ways. The scenes of DJay
cutting his tracks in the home studio are a thunderous treat for the ears. In
addition, the dialogue is delivered in an ultra-clear form, and additional music
on the soundtrack sounds fantastic, as well.
included on this release some of the better made bonus material I’ve seen
lately. Featured on the disc is a commentary with writer/director Craig Brewer.
Also featured are three extremely well made documentaries; “Behind the
Hustle”, “By Any Means Necessary”, and “Creatin’ Crunk”. Also
included is footage from the Memphis Premiere of the film, promotional spots and