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Memphis street hustler and pimp DJay (Terrence Howard) is a lowlife fringe dweller with a whore in tow, Nola (Taryn Manning), and buried aspirations. A chance meeting with an old acquaintance, Key (Anthony Anderson), a sound engineer also with buried aspirations, opens a door for both of them through the music of the streets - DJay's unique lyrics that resound with the heat of the street, pain without gain, the flash of the cash and the need for the weed. Teaming with church keyboard player Shelby (D. J. Qualls) who has a synthetic beat machine, they make a demo of some crunk (a sub-branch of rap) - with a little help from pregnant friend Shug (Taraji P. Henson). They hope that visiting platinum-selling local boy made good rapper, Skinny Black (Ludacris), will have a listen and make DJay's hustle flow the big time. But life ain't like that.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Peopled with gritty, unsafe and unsavoury characters from the street scape of downtown Memphis, Hustle and Flow probes keenly into the crunk subculture alien to Australians, yet fascinating and engaging. Much of the dialogue is spoken in the local argot and much of the music is specialist fare, most appreciated by aficionados. All the same, the film has a certain fascinating glue, and a terrific central performance by Terrence Howard as DJay. Indeed, the entire cast is outstanding, creating chunky characters that could jump from a graphic novel - or real life in that part of the (under)world.

The women are notably interesting characters, constantly fizzing with angst and attitude, victimised and brutalised yet triumphant and proud. But that's a sidebar to the film's main intention, which is to build a redemptive story about this believably conflicted character, DJay, who is a cheap pimp on the one hand, a selfish and crude user, while genuinely ambitious and desperate to rise above his rank through a creative outpouring. In his case, crunk - which is rap music peculiar to this neighbourhood, and has been christened after the revving of car engines. Loud, revving, repetitive, built from the pain of the blues.

But it's hard for mere white trash to get all whooped up about DJay's material: Beat That Bitch, Whoop That Trick, and even It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp, don't quite amount to the sentiments of a downtrodden black kid rising from the gutter. Nor does his musical talent seem blindingly obvious.

The journey is not as predictable as it sounds, though, and the details of the relationships make the film engaging for anyone, not just rap fans. Still, it doesn't quite find the right tone to be a universal story, although the subject matter and its emotional core wants to be up there with the best of them. Wants to be ....

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Terrence Howard, DJ Qualls, Ludacris, Taryn Manning

PRODUCER: John Singleton, Stephanie Allain

DIRECTOR: Craig Brewer

SCRIPT: Craig Brewer


EDITOR: Billy Fox

MUSIC: Scott Bomar


RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes



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