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Paramount Home Video presents
Hustle and Flow (2005)

"There are two types of people: those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk."
- Key (Anthony Anderson)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: January 10, 2006

Stars: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Tarji P. Henson
Other Stars: D.J. Qualls, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, Ludacris
Director: Craig Brewer

MPAA Rating: R for sex and drug content, pervasive language, and some violence
Run Time: 01h:56m:13s
Release Date: January 10, 2006
UPC: 097363456544
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AA-A- B+

DVD Review

The creation of art is a magical, often uplifting process that can grasp the most unlikely individuals in settings far removed from the rich, technologically advanced environment. Some of the best music comes from down-on-their-luck artists struggling to break out from a confining situation. DJay (Terrence Howard) is a pimp facing the internal crisis of struggling for cash in a seedy world for the rest of his life. Selling his girl Nola (Taryn Manning) to random guys from his car does not fall into the category of laudatory professions. However, DJay retains aspirations of moving beyond the low-level drug and sex deals and making something worthy of himself. Finding success in the fiercely competitive hip-hop world seems impossible, but there's always a chance if you're willing to "walk the walk."

Craig Brewer's Hustle and Flow depicts DJay's story effectively without moving into overly sentimental territory. In one especially difficult scene, he throws his employee Lexus (Paula Jai Parker) and her young son out on the streets. DJay's motives are understandable during this frenetic scene, but his callous attitude varies considerably from the typically heroic protagonist. Several key moments play a role in his movement towards a much-different life. The first involves the apparently unimportant purchase of an old keyboard from a street peddler that eventually creates the needed spark. The other one is meeting Key (Anthony Anderson), a music expert currently performing odd sound jobs at churches and dull corporate functions. Key has a loving wife and a nice home, but he longs for something much more, which aligns his interests with DJay's. Joining them is the amiable Shelby (DJ Qualls)—a music buddy of Key's—who helps to raise the music to the next level.

One of the story's pivotal attributes that lifts it beyond the typical formula is the Memphis setting with its huge soul music history. The legendary Isaac Hayes plays Arnel and represents more than his role as a local bar owner. The soundtrack recalls Shaft and other 70s films that launched the careers of many notable artists. Brewer grew up in Memphis, and his connection to the setting adds a personal element that would be sorely missing if the film was shot in Hollywood. Bland set creations hardly ever improve on the real thing and would have seriously lessened this tale. The sites depicted are unique and add to the authentic feeling of the entire picture. This environment's realistic atmosphere makes the events accessible to more than hip-hop fanatics.

DJay's possible triumph mirrors the impending success of Terrence Howard (Hart's War, Ray), who delivers a star-making performance that should guarantee him an Oscar nomination. Along with a much-different supporting role in Crash, his stunning work as DJay lifts the mostly unknown actor to star status. His unique Memphis accent never feels contrived and generates a believable character. Anthony Anderson follows his excellent work in The Shield with an effective dramatic performance as Key, the "straight man" of the piece. His down-to-earth presence helps to calm the more volatile DJay and keep them moving forward. The striking Taraji P. Henson (Baby Boy) plays a much-different role here as the pregnant, loyal Shug, who provides the heart of the story. When she finally steps from her shell and reveals her talents, the effect should warm even the more cynical viewers. Taryn Manning also deserves credit for the difficult role of Nola, who says little but delivers a key speech after she's treated extremely poorly.

Hustle and Flow was not an easy film to sell to marketing-driven studio executives, and producer John Singleton forked over some of his own money to finance the picture. His creative instincts were affirmed when the movie won the Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and a festival record for its rights. While the story may not appeal to everyone, it sidesteps many boundaries and offers a positive message without going overboard. When DJay finally approaches an arrogant hip-hop star to hustle his way into the music industry, the result is completely unpredictable. Ludacris appears in this critical scene and avoids the stunt-casting label by making the out-of-touch rapper believable. This genuine feeling permeates throughout this picture and less to an especially powerful creation.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Hustle & Flow's realistic atmosphere correlates with a less-perfect picture, and this disc's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer offers a rough image. There is a significant amount of grain, but it fails to distract from the overall product and actually enhances its effectiveness. The film's relatively low budget also played a role in this transfer, which shines despite the obstacles.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release offers a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that effectively conveys the important musical numbers within a fairly complex sound field. Starting with the first bars of the credits music, the rear speakers receive considerable use and help to sell the tunes to the audience. The dialogue remains clear, and the songs resonate powerfully and with considerable depth. This disc also provides a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track, which offers a solid listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Get Rich or Die Tryin', Four Brothers, The Bad News Bears, and the Honeymooners
6 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Craig Brewer
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Hustle andFlow offers a solid collection of extra features that provide some worthy insights into its creation. It was obviously a labor of love, and the enthusiastic comments are not the typical promotional fluff. The individual supplements are described in the sections below:

Commentary by Writer/Director Craig Brewer
Writer/director Craig Brewer spent four years putting the film together, which gives him plenty of interesting stories to impart during this commentary. He speaks in a fairly mellow voice, but his enthusiasm is apparent from the very first minutes. Although Brewer did not work as a pimp, the script is filled with his personal recollections about Memphis. This connection helps him to avoid the typical pratfalls of this type of track and provide an intriguing commentary.

Behind the Hustle (27:19)
This interesting documentary offers a fairly detailed overview on the production, focusing on the talented cast and their roles. It begins with a glimpse at the cast readthrough and then provides numerous interview clips. We learn some notable anecdotes, including how Terrance Howard's music tastes are much different than DJay's and that John Singleton wanted to dub Taraji P. Henson's voice (which didn't happen). Anthony Anderson talks about this being his first film that gave him an emotional investment. Brewer appears consistently during this piece and offers positive views on all of the key players.

By Any Means Necessary (14:38)
Craig Brewer struggled for a long time to bring this film to the screen, and this feature explains the problems in gaining financing. Singleton ended up providing some of his own money, which contradicts a rule that he learned in film school. The concluding segment covers the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, which gained them the Audience and Cinematography awards, plus a studio deal.

Creatin' Crunk (13:40)
One of the pivotal aspects of Hustle & Flow is its soundtrack and the created songs, which must work perfectly to sell the story. The original Stax players actually came together to play on the soundtrack recording, which was a major coup for Brewer. Another interesting story describes Memphis rapper Al Kapone, who wrote one of DJay's key tracks in one night.

Memphis Hometown Premiere (4:53)
This brief featurette shows the rampant excitement that greeted the cast and crew when they premiered the film on July 6, 2005. Memphis Mayor AC Wharton actually declared this day Craig Brewer Hustle & Flow Day, which is a major honor. We also see the cast talking to the press and being friendly to the adoring crowd.

Promotional Spots/Previews
The last feature is a collection of six promotional spots that show Howard acting in character and only partially succeeding in doing justice to the picture. Clips from the movie also appear during these quick commercials. Trailers for Get Rick or Die Tryin', Singleton's Four Brothers, The Bad News Bears, and The Honeymooners appear prior to the main menu.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Hustle and Flow is one of 2005's inspiring success stories, and it deserves awards consideration for several acting performances, especially Terrance Howard's DJay. Even if you're not usually the target audience for films where the lead is a pimp, you should give this worthy movie a chance. Offering a solid collection of extra features, this release is strongly recommended.

 


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