Opening 17 Nov 2005
The film opens with DJay (Terrence Howard) reciting a long monologue to Nola (Taryn Manning). Both are sitting in his broken-down car, a type of jalopy which is prevalent on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee. He is a talker, who spouts such manifestations as “Dogs don’t know about Easter bunnies and death.” Drivers stop occasionally to inquire about the price of the girl, and soon Nola drives off with another man. Black DJay is a pimp, and he hustles his white prostitute. He lives in a run-down neighborhood with two more women, both black: pregnant Shug and Lexus, mother of a small son. DJay dreams of a better life for his patchwork family. He sees the future in rap music and, as he says, “I got this flow, and I need to spit.” Some funny scenes arise when he and his old buddy Key set up a recording studio at home with the technical help of Shelby (a very funny DJ Qualls) and Shug (background vocals). He raps his original poetry. The only hindrance between DJay and fame is the opportunity to put his CD into the right promotional hands. That opportunity appears when successful singer Skinny Black (Chris Ludacris Bridges) comes to town.
Much has been made of the fact that Craig Brewer, though white, could write and direct a film about Memphis black rap called crunk. I pity the poor people who will be called upon for an impossible job: to translate for the subtitles or synchronization. I probably understood half of the dialog which was, supposedly, in English. That should not deter you from this recommended film about very real and human people; they are a mess, but never indifferent. Especially the women shine in spite of their poverty and dependence. Lexus dares to confront DJay and is thrown out on the street to fend for herself. In time of need, Nola rises to the occasion and soon surprises herself by acquiring a power suit, a briefcase and an enormous amount of self-confidence. Key’s wife Yevette (Elise Neal), a proper black, church-going lady with a real job and a nice home, reaches out to the low-class, scummy friends of her husband. The ending leaves room for hope. Naturally, the music plays a central part and is worth your time, even for non-rappers. Hustle and Flow won the audience prize at the 2005 Sundance festival. (Becky Tan)