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MGM Studios DVD presents
American Pimp (2000)

"A lot o' stuff that has to do with pimpin', the average square just don't understand."
- Payroll

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: October 26, 2000

Stars: Fillmore Slim, C-Note, Gorgeous Dre
Other Stars: Payroll, Rosebudd, Bishop Don Magic Juan
Director: The Hughes Brothers

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific Media Corporation
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive sexual content including dialogue, strong language and some drug-related material
Run Time: 01h:27m:25s
Release Date: October 31, 2000
UPC: 027616854803
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Following their fictional features Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, Allen and Albert Hughes directed the documentary American Pimp. The film features a number of financially successful pimps talking about the lifestyle, the business, the women and the morality of what they do, with additional comments from the prostitutes who work for them and the manager of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada. Juxtaposed with the real-life pimps are film clips from movies including The Mack, Willie Dynamite and the 1937 Highway to Hell, backed with a soundtrack of blues, rap and pop tunes related to pimping and prostitution.

The Hughes Brothers' film doesn't have an obvious point-of-view, or rather, doesn't try to present "both sides of the story" in an attempt to take the moral high ground. American Pimp's approach is more subtle, giving the pimps enough screen time to hang themselves—metaphorically speaking—and allowing us to see both the charm and the ruthlessness that enables these men to succeed on the street. Their flashy, jovial demeanor and humorous anecdotes belie the darker side of what they do, revealed in spite of itself as they convince women to sell sexual favors on the street for their own personal benefit; deceiving, romancing and beating them for the sake of the money they bring in. Perhaps I was naïve, but I was genuinely shocked to learn that the prostitutes who work for these men get to keep absolutely NONE of the money they earn, trading this most dangerous and exhausting of labors for what amounts to rent, clothes, food and bail insurance. The film leaves no doubt that the pimps use physical and emotional abuse and intimidation to keep their "bitches" and "hos" in line; we don't see any incidents of violence or drug use on camera, but the cavalier attitude of the pimps towards the women who support their extravagant lifestyles is disturbing in the extreme.

American Pimp takes its greatest risk in presenting the pimps (including the colorfully-named Fillmore Slim, Payroll, Rosebudd, C-Note, and Gorgeous Dre) as human beings. We see Bishop Don Magic Juan visiting his mother, Fillmore Slim reminiscing about his early days in the business, and Gorgeous Dre in prison following a pandering arrest. Some people will take this objective approach as a glorification of the pimp, simply because no disclaimers, moral judgments or obviously negative consequences of the lifestyle are on display. But the film's very neutrality is its saving grace; when a pimp elaborates on his philosophy of "violence as compassion" or forces his women to work longer on a chilly, slow night, no human being can fail to see the greed and exploitation fundamental to their world. American Pimp is simultaneously fascinating and repellent; an honest look at some very cold men making very big money.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: American Pimp is presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio, with a decent anamorphic transfer. The film appears to have been shot using Hi-Def video and grainy 16mm film, so the image quality is somewhat limited by the technology. The 24-frame-per-second digital transfer from a clean source print is perfectly competent, but some scan-line artifacting and softness are apparent in the source itself, and a few archival film clips range from extremely sharp to grainy and scratchy. But this is a documentary, and image quality isn't as important as the content; there are no flaws here that interfere with the material.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: MGM's American Pimp DVD features two soundtracks, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround track. Both tracks are similar in character, with centered monophonic dialogue and "live" sound effects, while music is spread across the front stage with a bit of surround ambience. Dubbed audio always bothers me most in documentaries because the original speakers' voices are replaced by actors' interpretations; I can't therefore recommend the Spanish 2.0 track, though its quality is quite good. The 5.1 track sounds very nice indeed, with clear dialogue and crisp music with solid bass during visual montages and transitions. An excellent audio presentation by documentary standards.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Independent Focus: The Hughes Brothers Interview
Extras Review: MGM's American Pimp DVD is fairly light on supplements, though the package is nicely presented. A full-motion video menu prepared especially for the DVD features nicely-executed pimp-themed transitions, and 28 chapter stops with French and English subtitles round out the standard features. The only substantial supplement is the Independent Film Channel-produced Independent Focus: The Hughes Brothers, a 24-minute interview with the Brothers Hughes hosted by Elvis Mitchell. The interview is quite interesting, as Allen and Albert Hughes discuss their poorly-received second feature Dead Presidents and the process of making American Pimp; it's also a relief of sorts to know that the brothers don't sympathize with or admire the pimps profiled in the film. More informative than some feature-length commentaries, the interview piece raises this grade substantially.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

American Pimp is a provocative, uncompromising documentary about pimps and the prostitutes who work for them. MGM's DVD presents the film competently and at a reasonable retail price. An engrossing (if sometimes hard-to-take) film about human nature at its worst. Recommended.


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