Hustle and Flow (2005) – Movie Review

Hustle and Flow? Sounds like my last bowel movement.

But seriously, why all the bad movies? It’s not like I haven’t seen any good ones recently. The last movie I saw in theaters was the recent X-Men film, but the thing is I don’t have much to say about it other than, despite being flawed, contained more depth than the majority of comic book films. So I don’t actively seek out bad films to review, in fact there are some bad films I’ve seen recently and have nothing to say about them. But with Hustle and Flow, I feel,  I have enough things to say to waste people’s time with.

Actually, let me clarify something first: It’s not a bad film, just a rather mediocre one. It was also controversial when it came out. Now nobody could give a shit. The only remnants it has in public consciousness is as the “It’s hard out here for a pimp” movie. You know, because it featured a song by the Three 6 Mafia about the hardships of pimping that ended-up picking up the Oscar for “Best Original Song”. This stroked a lot of people’s fury-boners because it “glorified” pimps or whatever–who cares? It’s not a good song and it won most likely because the Academy are usually made of PC liberals obsessed with anything ghetto, and also wanted to have, like, a historical moment by giving the Oscar to a rap song. I mention all this because this movie, despite being released less than a decade ago, is hardly remember aside from a generic rap song.

So the movie is about DJay, a pimp and hustler living in Memphis played by Terrence Howard. But he’s not one of those “bad-guy” pimps, but rather a somewhat sensitive guy who wants something more from life. We know this at the very beginning when the opening shot is on his profile as he’s asking someone off-screen (we quickly find out it’s one of his biatches) what they want to do with their life, or something like that. Later on, he buys a tiny Casio keyboard from an old bum. There’s a pretty bad scene that soon follows where he’s trying to calm one of his girl’s baby by playing random notes on the keyboard. This is supposed to be symbolic not just of his realization, but of the way kids can finally escape oppression, by doing something with their lives, like becoming a musician. A nice thought, but the way it’s framed is what I have issue with because it’s all presented in this trite manner that it’s hard to take seriously or not be bored by.

Things happen. We discover early on that a successful rapper called Skinny Black, played by Ludacris, is coming to town on July 4th. DJay, after realizing what he wants to do to escape, wants to make a mixtape for him to listen to in the hopes that he’ll rocket out of his lifestyle. A large problem with this movie is its predictability, especially toward the end when he tries to hustle Skinny Black. It seems like he succeeded but, to no one in the audience’s surprise, it doesn’t exactly work out. There is then some awful commentary made by Djay’s friend, Key (Anthony Anderson), at the end of the movie as well as some awful commentary made by the film about the music industry involving blowjobs.

So this movie is pretty ham-fisted and rather uninteresting. It makes one wonder how such a largely forgotten movie managed to cull so much adoration and controversy back when it came out. There are actually a couple of good scenes here and there, like when DJay is recording some of his music with Kay in a makeshift studio in DJay’s house, but even some of those scenes seem to drag and revel in cliche. So for the most part, this movie is just, meh, okay. It doesn’t fucking offend me like Lincoln for some reason nor is it as awful as Basquiat, another movie about a disenfranchised black guy who finds success, albeit that movie is about him dealing with that success. Also that movie sucked my balls (how many reviews have I mentioned that particular turd already?)

The acting is also, for the most part, just okay. Terrence Howard isn’t the greatest actor ever, or the most subtle, but he isn’t hammy here. He’s convincing for the most part, but the script doesn’t give his character a whole lot of nuance to work with. Anthony Anderson is pretty decent despite some of the lines he has to say. Perhaps the most memorable performance comes from Taryn Manning (of Crossroads fame) as Nola, one of DJay’s girls. But her character is wasted on a subplot that mirrors DJay’s conflict, where she wants to finally “take charge” of her life. It’s not a bad idea, but like the rest of the movie, is painted in the broadest strokes, with very little fine detail.

Would I recommend this? There are a few scenes that might interest fans of rap music, but for everyone else this movie is boring. So, so boring. I guess you can say that they should have Hustled for a better script because the ending is somewhat Ludacris and, ah-fuck it.

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