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Paramount Home Video presents
Hustle and Flow HD-DVD (2005)

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

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: June 26, 2007

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:15s
Release Date: June 26, 2007
UPC: 097361246840
Genre: drama


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

DVD Review

The DVD Review and Extras Review are by Dan Heaton.

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 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The transfer, using a VC-1 encode, is quite attractive, with excellent texture and detail, particularly on closeups. The grain structure is faithfully rendered for the most part, looking filmlike, although in a few very dark scenes it becomes somewhat sparkly. Shadow detail is excellent. The source, unsurprisingly, is pristine and clean. Color pops off the screen, and there's generally a nice three-dimensional effect. Edge enhancement isn't noticeable.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD+ track has tons of oomph, with good range and plenty of bass and surround information. The bass is often throbbing, and there's good rendering of the occasional (but intentional) musical distortion and feedback. The music plays a primary role and it plenty of attention has been paid to it in this transfer; it has good immediacy throughout. Dialogue is crisp and clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Craig Brewer
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Paula Jai Parker audition
  2. Ludacris and Terrence Howard rehearsal
  3. Acoustic It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp
  4. Two extended scenes
Extras Review: The only extra that is in HD are the two theatrical trailers for the feature. In addition to the standard DVD extras ported over, there are also footage from the audition of Paula Jai Parker, and a rehearsal of the meeting between Ludacris and Terrence Howard that plays entirely different from the final version. There are also a pair of extended scenes that don't seem to have been filmed; the scripted material is shown from read-throughs and rehearsals. Finally, there's a comical acoustic version of It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp that sends the song up in hilarious fashion.



Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Hustle & 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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