The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Hustle And Flow

Djay is a small time pimp working three girls on the back streets of Memphis, selling their services for $20 a shot out of his beat up car. Through a chance meeting, he develops an interest in resuming his high school involvement in music and decides to try recording hard edged rap from his perspective as a pimp. His debut single wins an Oscar for Best Song in a Motion Picture. Oh wait… That last bit is the real Academy Awards story from this year.

Most of the movie is a straightforward genre piece about the struggling neophyte trying to develop his signature sound, write songs, get recorded, and better his life from his humble beginnings. We’ve seen it recently in “Walk The Line” and if you are a fan of the classic musical biography, you’ve seen it in “Till The Clouds Roll By”, “The Glenn Miller Story” and many others.

As with all of these films, the biggest hurdle is getting over the simplified way the movie makers compress the songwriting and producing business so that a song develops from a casual comment made in conversation to “Wait… Say that again” to fully worked out lyric to hastily written complete melody to full multi-tracked production, all in the space of a few minutes. In this movie, the group of amateur recording artists in a glorified shack on the loud, bad, low-income streets of Memphis manage to record straight into fully mixed multi-layered professional studio sound. But heck, if I’m willing to accept ballet-dancing gang members in West Side Story, I can tolerate this little conceit.

The twist of this movie is the hard edged rap musical style and the rough world that Djay and his women inhabit. They all want something just a little better than they have, but none of them is quite sure what that might be or how to get it.

I thought the movie was a bit slow in the middle act while Djay goes through the necessary struggles to create his music. But it starts and ends well, with some tense moments involving conflict with one of the girls, and Djay’s attempts to get his music heard. Terrence Howard fully deserved all the acclaim heaped on him for his performance in this, alongside his very different character in “Crash.”

I will admit that as a lily-white suburban boy I ended up relying on subtitles sometimes to figure out what the black characters were saying. The music has a good beat. The acting is all quite good. The movie pulls you along to see if Djay will be able to make it. I can give this one a thumbs up, but I don’t think it’s a classic for our time.

This is not a kid friendly movie. In addition to the obvious subject matter of cheap street hustling, there is lots of profanity and vulgarities, a brief shot of female breasts, and violence.

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