"Pimp Fails to Find Redemption"
What You Need To Know:
HUSTLE & FLOW is totally unacceptable. Filmmaker Craig Brewer approaches the story artfully, but his characters experience only a shallow redemption that can’t elevate the movie past grotesqueness. The gospel music scene is a red herring: it signals that redemption might come to DJay and his associates, but they don’t find it. HUSTLE & FLOW also contains nearly 350 obscenities. The movie doesn’t approve of the way prostitution demeans women but seems to tacitly accept it as a sentence assigned to them by socioeconomic conditions.
(PaPaPa, B, C, PC, Ro, LLL, VV, SS, NN, AA, DDD, MM) Very strong pagan immoral worldview with prostitution and drug dealing, and redemption found in art and fame, rather than God, as well as light moral elements where pimp and hookers try to change their troubled lives, man is moved by gospel music in church, and married couple prays, mitigated by light politically correct and Romantic viewpoint that infers drug dealers and prostitutes are stuck in their roles and cannot escape due to societal factors; over 300 obscenities, including many racial epithets in songs, and 10 profanities; men shot in barroom brawl, man beaten, and man and woman struggle; prostitution and pimping, discussion of sexual acts, and prostitutes have children out of wedlock; brief upper female nudity in a nonsexual context, plus rear female nudity and women in bikinis at strip club; alcohol use and drunkenness; illegal drug selling and heavy use of illegal drugs; and, women strongly degraded through prostitution, lying and husband ignores wife for work.
HUSTLE & FLOW is concerned with a sad, reprehensible corner of society – prostitutes and drug dealers, but it tries to find the hopeful, essentially human part of them. While filmmaker Craig Brewer approaches the story artfully, his characters experience only a shallow redemption that can’t elevate the movie past grotesqueness.
Terence Howard plays DJay, a Memphis pimp and drug dealer who has trouble controlling his prostitutes, three of whom live in his shack-style house. One of the three women is pregnant, while another is mother to an infant but has since resumed her job on the street.
DJay reconnects with his old friend Key (Anthony Anderson). Key records music around Memphis, and one day Key invites DJay to a gospel session. A song, which is gorgeous and sung in its entirety, moves DJay to reassess his life. He feels a lack and wants to move past drugs and pimping. The solution he comes up with is to make music, and he and Key begin creating rap songs together.
DJay and the three women who live with him are in states of pure desperation. They are miserable with their lives and don’t see a way out of them. None of them are educated, and two have children. Several characters make statements such as, “Everyone needs something they’re good at.” Finding such a function would give them a clearer place in society but probably not relieve their burdens. Art and fame are, of course, shallow answers to a search for life’s meaning. Therefore, HUSTLE & FLOW doesn’t have an especially insightful or helpful message to offer about rising above struggle. The gospel music scene is a red herring: it signals that redemption might come to DJay and his associates, but they don’t find it.
The plot misses its opportunity to redeem the characters, and the movie seems hardened in other ways, too. Combining the subject matter with over 300 obscenities, including dozens of racial slurs, obviously puts tight limits on the potential audience. There is much talk about prostitution and drug trading, as well as heavy drug and alcohol abuse. The movie doesn’t approve of the way prostitution demeans women but seems to tacitly accept it as a sentence assigned to them by socioeconomic conditions.
It’s a shame that the story isn’t more satisfying, because director Craig Brewer is mightily talented. His use of visual symbols, as well as the nuanced performances he gets from his actors, shows that he learned from Robert Altman’s films and is capable of building on them. If he can find some characters and a plot that allow for a fully redemptive or enlightening arc, he could make a truly great film. In addition, Terence Howard provides a deeply felt performance, and the women around him are impressive. The acting is pitch perfect.
Still, media-wise audiences won’t be the least bit interested in HUSTLE & FLOW. The horrid choices that characters make will be off-putting, not to mention the abundant foul language and assorted objectionable elements.