Published at: May 4, 2005, 11:33 p.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here... Sometimes you walk into a screening thinking you'll be bored shitless with a film. That was the case this past SXSW week, when separate from the film fest, I was asked to see Craig Brewer's HUSTLE & FLOW. It was described in advance as being a hip hop rap flick, and given I'm just not your typical Hip Hop & Rap fan... I was checking it out only because it had racked up the awards at SUNDANCE and I figured there had to be something to it.
Now, don't get me wrong... I've enjoyed many films with Hip Hop and Rap - but it just isn't my music of choice. I invited most of the AICN crowd to come check this flick out - and there was only about 9 people in the theater. The director, Craig Brewer had flown in to chat with me after I saw the film... this always makes me nervous as fuck. I'm sure his nerves weren't the best either. He seemed like a nice enough guy - but hell - I hear Paul W.S. Anderson is a sweetheart and his shit is rank. The lights went down and the movie played...
Holy Shit! Right from the film font - I realized I'd been sucker punched. This wasn't some churned out of the mass-market mill flick - this film was made by a filmmaker that completely understands genre iconography. The filmmaking on HUSTLE & FLOW is so astute it reminds me of two other filmmakers working today. Filmmakers that have taken the exploitation genres of the seventies and raised them to a new level. Like Tarantino did to the Kung Fu Revenge flick and Edgar Wright Jr did to the Zombie flick - Craig Brewer has done to Blaxploitation - specifically the sub-genre of "PIMP WITH A DREAM" this is separate from the regular "Pimp" flick. Most Pimp flicks have to do with a guy who just wants to be the biggest badass of pimps... or the get rich quick game. Pimp with a Dream is a sub-genre where the pimp in question absolutely hates his life, it's eating away at him. He feels his life drying and cracking with each passing hour. Where he can feel the breath of the cops on the back of his neck, where he's in the biz on the short term - but that short term has become his life. Really - the best Pimp With A Dream flick prior to HUSTLE & FLOW was SUPERFLY.
I fucking love SUPERFLY. The music, that damn car, the threads and most definitely Superfly himself. He was a tanker truck of testosterone and Mad Max was at the wheel. The world was closing in and it was time to jump ship into a new life. It was being played for the exploitation levels it was creating, but there was a sadness and a resoluteness to Superfly that was hard to deny.
Now comes HUSTLE & FLOW. The 'hero' pimp of the story... he doesn't drive a car that looks like shit. However, the way Terrence Dashon Howard treats it... and the way Craig Brewer films it - the car - with its scrapes and primer coats, dents and odd noises... it is an extension of the man driving it. Cold and no nonsense from the exterior - but hot, tired and all real inside. The film isn't set in the big city - rather he lives in Memphis - in the low rent 'burbs area of town. Lawns slightly overgrown - houses no longer in their prime. The sort of place you rarely get out of, if you're stuck there. His 'tricks'? These aren't the fantasy whores of Hollywood - they're sweaty, mouthy and get the job done. You don't get the idea he beats them, physically that is... but he is a manipulator that dishes out cruelty and tenderness in equal loads - so they never get the idea of leaving or questioning him. He is a tower of confidence - he has to be. These women are all he has. This is his business, for what it is... They pull tricks, he collects the money, buys drugs, sells those and eeks out rent and expenses and not much more.
He's hit the age of his father when his father had him, and he's at that midlife crisis. Somebody he used to know has hit it big as hip hop rap artist and he remembers being better than that guy back in High School. He's got a narrow opportunity to put this crazy idea of his down... and mayuhn, he's gonna do it.
As much as the film is about a Pimp With A Dream... it is also the amazing story of garage music publishing and creation. It's hip hop stripped down to its essentials and mixed with a fucking hot as hell sound. You kinda sit there and watch this group of actors creating something that doesn't at all seem scripted or artificial. It feels vital and alive and happening right before your eyes. The performances are all the best work of all actors and actresses involved. Anthony Anderson is PERFECT in his role. DJ Qualls - never better. The two women in the house - my god. Break your heart in two. And then there's Terrence Dashon Howard. He is a major star waiting to happen, and in this film, that star happens. He is absolutely fucking great. The film works on every possible emotional level. And the music is so damn cool.
How good is this film? My father - who despises Rap with a passion and thinks Hip Hop and Rap has nearly destroyed modern musical culture altogether... was moved to tears multiple times by the film. I mean - he fricking LOVED the film and went in wishing he was anywhere, but there.
Now folks - I want to tell ya something. I didn't set out to write a review here. I was just writing an introduction to a trailer and kinda got carried away. Just thinking about the film got me to Elmer Gantry-itis. I'm going to be setting up a screening with Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse / Rolling Roadshow to bring Craig Brewer to town with this film. And we're going to have a damn fine time. Why? Because I went from being resistent to just wanting to watch the flick, to a point where I just can't wait to share the film with a larger audience in a way that only Mr League and I can do at one of our Mickey & Judy shows.
The film hits this summer - and folks do not miss it. This is the very best film I've seen this year thus far - we've got a long ways to go still, but this movie has lingered in my mind fairly consistently for 2 months now. And I know when we screen this sucker later this year - and I see it with a full on audience. It's going to be magic.
In the meanwhile - Here's the Trailer, personally I feel there's a few images that I wouldn't want to give the audience, but then if you don't have the context of the film, I s'pose it wouldn't much matter. Key thing about the film is this... Watch Craig Brewer (the director) and Terrence Dashon Howard. Both of these guys are going to be hitting homeruns often.