First things first, if you are not from the deep south of America I would advise watching this film with the subtitles on as, although everybody is speaking English, the accents are extremely thick, but that is a tiny flaw in a film that is altogether pretty good.
Even more than its thematic cousin, 8 Mile, Hustle & Flow harnesses the grungy essence of grass-roots hip-hop, the kind produced in basements and garages, and filters it through a truly intense performance.
From his 1970s title card onward the director has produced a blisteringly hip film, one that’s as capable with iconic images as it is with penetrating a deeply complex antihero.
The central figure is Djay, played by Terrence Howard, who is a revelation of simmering menace, whose desire to escape his daily pimp-and-ho grind is a physical force. As coldly efficient as his methods are, this is clearly a man with a conscience, a stern yet secretly caring father figure to the stable of prostitutes who live with him in his home. The poetics of his street philosophies naturally evolve into the necessary rhythms and life experiences for rap. As he gathers a motley group of collaborators, the music takes shape with a booming and vibrating gristle that is absolutely invigorating. Inspired by the overnight fame of another local street figure, Djay channels his gifts of persuasion into everything from acquiring sound equipment to quieting the neighbours during recording.
The supporting performances add whatever the director and lead cannot. The most well known face in this film, for me, was DJ Qualls, and he truly excels as a talented white mixing geek whose ‘street’ attitude actually ends up seeming cool, something that really is different for a guy that is usually cast as the person who is anything but cool. Anthony Anderson clearly relishes a well-deserved respite from contemporary comedies, yet still joins with Qualls to contribute the film’s significant doses of humour. Even rapper Ludacris is good! But the stars of this film, sharing the soul with Howard are the women; they really made the film for me, finding their fragile relevance throughout.
This is one of those rare MTV Films releases that actually use songs as enthralling and indispensable ingredients, and when I say enthralling I mean, this was some truly great hip hop. Because of the music, Hustle & Flow is a shot of cinematic adrenaline.
Although, for some reason, I didn’t enjoy this film as much as 8mile, probably due to the fact that I am neither a pimp nor a drug dealer so I failed to relate, I must acknowledge that this is a very well put together musical drama that has a great cast, great performances and most of all outstanding music.
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