Feeling Hustled

Columbus Alive | July 25, 2005
What do you get when you cross a film that follows a pimp’s redemption via rap music with the image of his ho chanting “Whoop That Bitch” to her newborn daughter? Apparently a Sundance award and a new three-movie deal for producer John Singleton.

Although Hustle & Flow stars Crash’s Terrance Dashon Howard as a pimp with a heart (and teeth) of gold, writer/director Craig Brewer notes that he simply “wanted to make a Memphis movie.” Inspired in part by the sudden and inexplicable death of Brewer’s own father at a young age—as well as his real-life interactions with a colorful Memphis pimp—the decision to situate Hustle & Flow’s crunk roots in the birthplace of blues and rock ’n’ roll could have made for a nice story.

Instead we’re left to ponder the irony of a pregnant prostitute belting out the chorus to “It’s Hard Out Here Being A Pimp.” In fact, Brewer’s depiction of women shows a stunning level of ignorance and disdain overall—almost all the female characters are infantilized or lacking in initiative and intelligence.

Howard’s portrayal of DJay is one of the few performances worth noting. As a two-bit, part-time drug dealer with exactly three “tricks” to his name and a dubious plan to get into the rap game, DJay has all the markings of a tired urban cliché. But instead of a barrage of keeping-it-reals, spinning rims and bitch-slapping, Howard is most convincing when expressing weed-induced maxims to his “primary investor,” Nola (Taryn Manning), while sitting in his rusty Chevy.

Through important encounters—one with a client who barters an ancient Casio for a quarter bag, and the other with former classmate-turned-sound engineer Key (Anthony Anderson)—DJay begins to realize his lifelong dream of becoming a rapper.

The other strong performance is turned in by Memphis native, former Prada model and real-life cancer survivor DJ Qualls, who brings a surprising level of depth and humor to the role of Shelby, the scraggly white boy who delivers the beats.

Unfortunately the few fine performances and stunning cinematography aren’t enough to save this lazy exercise in redemption. How worthwhile is it, really, for a man to “earn” his dream through the sexual transactions and favors of women?

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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