I think this Hustle & Flow probably should replace the group I listed for "rags to riches" stories in my "American Films" list. Maybe it's because I'm more of a cinema verite guy anyway, but I find the rags-to-hand-me-downs story more compelling. The first half of a Behind the Music is always better than the second.
Further, I find that a good way to determine whether a movie worked on you is whether you are wondering what happens to these characters next. Now obviously, there are some films wherein this doesn't hold, such as Citizen Kane. He's dead, what could happen next? Similarly, we get all the 'next' we needed, and probably a fair bit more from Return of the King. But in others, like The Fugitive, or
Hustle & Flow is like that, it ends at a beginning of sorts. Does DJ go on to Nas-like greatness, does he sell out like the fictional Skinny Black, or does he have his 15 minutes and then is never heard from again. A great, great film. Terrance Howard is better in this than he was in Crash (where I thought the best performances were Ludacris and Larenz Tate, but who listens to me?) He raps convincingly, which is no mean feat – there is a distinct art to ‘flowing’ (which was hinted at in 8 Mile, but covered in more depth here).
Also of note is the film is essentially about the process of making the film. The director Craig Brewer, is a Memphian(?), and he hustled his way to make an independent film before John Singleton signed on to produce and finance this one.
I’d also like to echo Brewer in his sentiments that hip hop is not art, consider the intro lyrics the title song (composed by Memphis artist Al Kapone):
Look this is my life, and it's a battle withinTell me that’s not street poetry.
I gotta survive, even if I'm sinnin to win
And if I show no remorse I reap the devil's reward
He said he'd, give me riches but I'm lookin for more
Pooh’s View: Superb. I’m very intrigued to see Brewer’s next effort, “Black Snake Moan.” Blues, sex and voodoo, with Sam Jackson as a old bluesman? Sign me up.