Hustle & Flow

The Devil Says

Skip It

(See Shaft or Pretty Woman instead)

I'm always glad to see a new blaxploitation film (or should I call it neo-blaxploitation?). All our old friends are back. There's the black pimp (doing double duty as the black drug-dealer), the black whore, the black stripper, and the white whore. The standard scenes are here too, with a bar fight, a shooting, and plenty of whoring. There's the latest in hip black music, the word "nigger" used every third minute, a throwback to '70s cinematography (with an opening credits sequence that could have been shot by Tarantino for Grindhouse), and even a cameo by Isaac Hayes. We're deep into  blaxploitation. But there is something missing: the fun. The general exciting plotline of a super-cool dude or hot gal kicking some serious ass has been replaced by a combo of the stories of Pretty Woman and Summer Stock. "Hey everyone, let's put on a show...a hip hop show, and then we can rise out of our sad lives of sweeping cinders/doing guys in the front seats of their American-made cars." Instead of hitting the viewer in the groin, Hustle & FLow goes for the heart. It's the wrong organ.

(Djay letting us know that some tricks need to be whooped)

All that touchy-feely emotion is focused around Djay, an inarticulate and unpleasant pimp with anger issues who decides one day that sitting in his car while his hot blond ho gives $20 blowjobs isn't satisfying for him. He's also none-too-happy that one of his girls is making enough money as a stripper to sass him (and you know what happens to sass-mouthed bitches in a blaxploitation film). A chance meeting with a schoolmate makes Djay realize that he needs to express himself through song, and it's time to put on a show!

(Sometimes all you've got is a gratuitious tit shot)

The problem here is that the filmmakers can't tell the difference between a story of gritty realism, depression, and hope and a fairytale. They take this all deadly seriously, but instead of a true look at urban culture and the problems of being black in America, they've retold The Brother's Grimm. Hey, I love fairytales, but if that's what you're making, dial up the fantasy and give us some entertainment. If you're going for exploitation, lets see some tits and ass and some more action. And if you really want to portray the black experience, then make a movie that doesn't involve a guy creating a recording in his back room and becoming somebody.

It seems that the real message here is that rap is really easy. Apparently, anyone can do it. Huh. Sure, the old 1940s musicals said the same thing about show tunes, but they weren't trying to be deep.

The middle act, where they've all joined together in that back room to make the great American song, isn't bad. It's not great, but if you're fond of underdog stories, you may enjoy it. However, one watchable act in three is nothing to brag about.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride 1970s blaxploitation had a strong message of black power. It was cool to be black just because, no matter the circumstances. But you won't find that here. At least the white prostitute gets it right in the end, happy to be choosing to give blow-jobs to djs to get the song on the radio instead of unhappy being pimped out.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice Nada.
Gluttony Smoking a joint is a good thing.  Do it often, particularly when rapping.
Aesthetics Nada.
Surrogate Cruelty Gratuitous bar fight, an unlikely shooting, and a lot of general mistreatment of women. If you have psychological problems with women, you'll find plenty to please you. 
Thought Nada.
Humor Nada.
Lust Passion is low, however sex is taken as a normal part of life. Prostitution is no worse than other work—no better either, and since every job outside of rap star is depressing, it's a sad life. There are a few nipple shots that come out of nowhere, but who's complaining?

Buy It


Film Info

Director: Craig Brewer

Writer: Craig Brewer

Producers: John Singleton, Stephanie Allain

Cast: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, D.J. Qualls, Ludacris, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, Isaac Hayes

Runtime: 116 min