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Hustle & Flow
2005 - R - 116 Mins.
Director: Craig Brewer
Producer: Stephanie Allain and John Singleton
Written By: Craig Brewer
Starring: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson and DJ Qualls
Review by: Bill King
Official Site:

Where's Simon Cowell when you need him?
'Hustle & Flow' tells us the story of a dumbass loser who wants to get away from smalltime pimping and drug-dealing, and become a famous rapper, presumably so he can hire pimps and smoke better weed. When movies present to us a deeply flawed hero, there is often a redeeming factor about him; something that indicates strengths and weaknesses at war with each other (that includes Travis Bickle of 'Taxi Driver').

DJay (Terrence Howard) is not like that. He is consistently belligerent; he probably knows the difference between right and wrong and doesn't care. Writer/director Craig Brewer subjects us to endless scenes of DJay's wrath, then tosses bait in our direction by humanizing him -- to make us feel sorry for him -- and then repeats the cycle ad nauseam. The worst scene in the film, and possibly the worst of the year, shows DJay tossing out one of his ho's and her baby, and slamming the door on them. We never see them again. DJay looks ridden with guilt, but quickly moves on to produce his rap demo, and we watch him hard at work, as if Brewer was saying to us "oh look, he's a good guy after all! He just wants a better life." I don't buy it.

DJay tells everyone he was a friend of Skinny Black, a former resident who moved out of the ghetto to become a major rap star. DJay's goal is to do the same, so he recruits a little help to realize his dream. High school buddy Clyde (Anthony Anderson) agrees to put together a studio in DJay's home, and Shelby (DJ Qualls) operates the keyboard to find the right sound. The creation of the demo tape takes up the bulk of the movie, and it is during this time that Craig Brewer mishandles DJay's story. Maybe if DJay actually emerged improved somehow, perhaps ready to take some responsibility for his actions, then possibly this would be a good movie. Instead, DJay sits in jail, feeling triumphant that his demo is now on the radio.

I don't require every movie to provide a likable hero. Indeed, sometimes a completely irredeemable character is necessary. My issue with 'Hustle & Flow' is that it asks us to sympathize with a thug who doesn't deserve it. Throughout the film's run of nearly two hours, we're jerked around by this guy's heartless attitude. Mixed in with the mess are dishonest revelations of DJay's hopes and dreams. Like I give a crap about his hopes and dreams. We're not watching a character grow; we're watching Brewer tug the emotional strings.

This is a movie that doesn't deserve one single bit of serious thought. The director's method is easy to pick apart. 'Hustle & Flow' wants to infuriate, then relieve the tension through trickery. It's as simple as that.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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