out of Five
Running time: 116
Opens London Film Festival: 25th October
General release: 11th November
Enjoyable, engaging drama with well-written characters, great dialogue and a terrific, star-making performance by Terrence Howard.
Rising star Terrence Howard has been the best thing about his last two movies (Crash
and Four Brothers
), so it’s fitting that Hustle & Flow gives him a terrific leading role. It’s also immensely gratifying that Hollywood is beginning to take notice: after Hustle & Flow premiered at the Sundance Festival, Variety magazine compared his brooding thoughtfulness and emotional immediacy
Howard stars as streetwise Memphis pimp and smalltime dealer DJay, who lives with three hookers: heavily pregnant Shug (Taraji P Henson), hotheaded Lex (Paula Jai Parker) and blankly innocent Nola (Taryn Manning).
Inspired by a gospel song, DJay reawakens his old dreams of becoming a recording artist. Knowing that local-boy-turned-rap-superstar Skinny Black (Chris Ludacris Bridges) is coming to town, he hooks up with old friend Key (Anthony Anderson) and attempts to get a demo tape together.
Howard is simply terrific as DJay – he really makes you root for his character, despite his pimping, drug-dealing ways. Anderson and Qualls are both actors who are usually cast in comic relief roles and they relish the opportunity to give straight performances here.
The Memphis setting adds a rich authenticity to the film and director Craig Brewer adds a layer of blaxploitation that even extends to the use of a 1970s-style chunky yellow font during the opening credits.
Though the ending of the film feels rushed, there’s a huge amount to enjoy here and there are some great scenes to make up for it.
In short, Hustle & Flow is a hugely enjoyable film that should appeal to anyone who loved 8 Mile. It has great characters, a script that crackles with great lines and a superb score – it’s also unexpectedly moving. Highly recommended.