I'd love to say Hustle and Flow is a
movie about my rise from the streets, because I am from the streets.
Well, not exactly from them, but I drive them. Or, take the bus
on them. That makes me a bit of an expert on street culture. Or,
as we on the 52 southbound call it, The Stareetz. And we call
ladies Bee-otches because that's a contraction for the way they
always be buzzing around like honeybees in our crotches thinking
that bulge is a bunch of daisies. No, no, bee-otches, that bulge
ain't no flowers; it's my coin purse. They ain't be letting no
gangstaz ride the bus for free, yo.
want to believe in movies like this, I think, because we all wish
we had some romantic up-by-the-bootstraps story to tell. Even
if not many of us have bootstraps. Hell, I don't even know what
they are or why people would need straps on their boots. Or, for
that matter, why so many assholes around Colorado wear cowboy
boots when they don't have cows. Anyway, an underdog success story
beats the hell out of saying you got your job through Dad, live
in a studio apartment with a cat named Mr. Lickers and your goal
in life is to watch more television.
and Flow is as sweaty and gritty as a jerky factory in August,
but in its guts it's just a formula movie. Terrence Howard plays
a Memphis hustler aspiring to get himself out of the ghetto by
writing and singing hip-hop. He's a pimp by day with a nasty stable.
I mean, these girls look like syphilis warmed over, all mottled,
tired and sad. One's a stripper with a baby in the crib, one's
pregnant and the last is the workhorse (Taryn Manning), a cornrowed
white girl who's the whore equivalent of the Tigers' old pitcher
Jack Morris; always willing to take the ball, work late and keep
hurling no matter how badly it's going.
like a lot of poor people: convinced he's better than the world's
giving him a chance to show. It ain't his fault he's not rich,
he thinks, he just hasn't had the chance. That's not the way I
think; I know I've achieved my dreams. The trick is ignoring the
ones that require hard work. Anyway, Howard is looking for a way
out of the ghetto and thinks he's found one when he hears of an
old acquaintance making a fortune with "crunk", a southern form
of rap that slathers on the bass like a fat kid with a jar of
mayonnaise. He thinks--just as I did when I thought I had read
about a man who grew a tail--why can't I do that?
ropes in an old school friend as producer and starts to record
his own "crunk", which as far as I can tell is a southern rap
style with a really heavy bass line and not a God damn thing in
its head. It's party music for people who genuinely believe the
party is all that matters.
the premise is established, Hustle and Flow turns on the
cliches and dramatic flourishes of other bootstrap movies. It's
Rocky and 8 Mile without much variation. Howard
completes his demo tape against great odds and with a few mildly
amusing jokes, then gets it into the hands of his rap hero, Stinky
D (Ludacris) or something like that, only to learn that Stinky
D isn't such a good guy after all. Guns are drawn, some contrived
violence happens and Howard is sent back into the gutter. Of course,
when he's lost all hope it becomes a big hit on the radio and
he's achieved the fame he believes validates his belief in himself.
is a pretty great character. He displays a core of decency, protecting
his girls, taking care of the baby and waxing about the difference
between men and dogs. He's also like a dog getting whacked on
the snout, insecure and defensive. He tosses out aone whore and
her baby after she brings up the difference between what he presents
himself as and who he really is. Which is a two-bit hustler with
few connections. Still, he insists he's more because that's what
he wants to believe and he's gonna prove it.
the second half of Hustle and Flow goes exactly where you
expect it to, but at least it had genuine enough settings and
characters to keep me interested. The Memphis setting is pretty
damn real feeling, right down to the stifling heat. Sweat drips
off the characters, fans are always whirring in the back, and
everything moves as though slowed by the density of wet air. The
beat up cars, torn window screens and rendezvous under train trestles
all plant the movie firmly in reality.
main problem, though, is that for a movie about getting up by
the bootstraps, I never was convinced that Howard did it or deserved
it. His motivation for making music is not to get a message or
artistic vision out; it's just to make a shitload of money and
get famous. The songs he writes are derivative and tired shit
about how hard it is to be a pimp and live the hard knock life.
I think there might already be a rap song about that. So, we're
asked to root for Howard because his goal is to be famous. Not
be famous for doing something great. His fame is the reward for
his quest for fame. Usually, these kinds of movies are about people
who get fame as a nice bonus for becoming the best fighter, best
dancer or whatever. But being the best isn't a goal here. It's
just being famous.
a pretty fucking shallow message, and a bit disappointing. It
feels like a cheat that there's not much to this guy's dreams.
What separates him from every other poor person besides that he's
ambitious? He isn't an undiscovered talent, he's a two-bit pimp
with who wants to be rich.
Fingers for Hustle and Flow, a nice budget travelogue
to Tennessee strapped to a corny plot.
Filthy || Want to tell Filthy