27 August 2006
Hustle & Flow
A few months back the New York Times ran an article about recent films their reviewers wanted to single out as worthy or exceptional in some way. There were a few well known titles but mostly the list was devoted to independents, foreign releases, or films that had never caught the public’s eye. Hustle & Flow made the list, and on the surface it didn’t sound like very much – Memphis pimp tries to turn his life around through rap music and the help of an old friend. And yes, the film is exactly that –- but what clearly warranted its inclusion on the Times list was the solid acting that kept a familiar plot from becoming too predictable. Terrence Howard has received accolades for his role as Djay, but my favorite performances were from Taryn Manning and DJ Qualls as the slightly dim-witted Nola and the perpetually sweaty and over-eager Shelby. Hustle & Flow is a few steps removed from MTV fodder (not surprisingly, MTV had something to do with the final production or distribution) so don’t expect a critical analysis of African American poverty, urban blight, and societal breakdowns. There are other films that address those issues – but this isn’t one of them.