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Hustle & Flow - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

A FILM about a pimp suffering from a midlife crisis has picked up the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the world's leading showcase for independent film.

Hustle & Flow is written and directed by Craig Brewer and is said to feature a mesmerising lead performance from Terrence Howard.

It has already been acquired by Paramount Pictures and MTV Films for $9 million (4.8 million pounds), making it one of the biggest winners of the 2005 event.

Howard stars as Djay, the pimp suffering the crisis, who yearns to become a respected rapper.

After becoming inspired by a gospel song, however, he sets his dream in motion, recruiting his own motley crew and building a studio in his home.

But although he manages to get his rap onto a tape, Djay quickly discovers that there are many barriers to fame and fortune - and achieving it is harder than he could have imagined.

The film emerged as a Sundance favourite off the back of strong word-of-mouth.

Geoffrey Gilmore, writing on the film festival website, described Brewer's film as 'a revelation and a delight', that is 'energized by an enormously charismatic central character and a performance by Terrence Howard which is quite simply a breakout'.

Howard has previously appeared in movies as diverse as Ray, Biker Boyz, Big Momma's House and Hart's War, where he has regularly shone in supporting roles.

His winning performance in Hustle & Flow, however, could put him firmly on the route to leading man status.

To conclude with Gilmore's summary of the film: "Hustle & Flow is a masterful reframing of the world that creates hip-hop and a succinct and humanizing portrait of the wellspring of contemporary music."

Expect it to be among the most popular independent films of the year when it secures mainstream release dates on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

US reaction

Critics in America backed up the film's success at Sundance by proclaiming it to be a masterpiece,

The Dallas Morning News leads the way by declaring it to be 'a sort of Rocky for ambitious street hustlers, Hustle & Flow traffics in the risky business of making prostitution seem not quite as bad as the hip-hop world, and it conjures a sticky mix of urban grit and Hollywood schmaltz'.

While the Washington Post wrote that it's 'a surprisingly charming story that - in certain sections - almost crystallizes into the sweetness of a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical'.

And the Los Angeles Times felt that 'Hustle & Flow unfolds in the satisfying fashion of classic Hollywood movies that strike a balance between grit and heart, capturing the hard edge of poverty and lack of opportunity but also offering a ray of hope for a better life'.

Newsday felt that its star 'Howard's been knocking on stardom's door for some time now, and Hustle & Flow should seal the deal'.

While USA Today wrote that 'Howard takes a character that might have been a caricature and makes him real - sometimes icy, sometimes fiery, sometimes slick, sometimes passionate'.

Also positive was Variety, which wrote that it 'exhibits an undeniable confidence that permeates its every aspect'.

And the San Francisco Chronicle, which opined: "So much love went into Hustle & Flow that it almost glows with it."

Entertainment Weekly was also a fan, stating that 'we're drawn to the exotic inside portrait of a flyweight urban hustler who knows how to cast a spell'.

As was the Chicago Sun-Times, which concluded that 'Terrence Howard modulates Djay with great love and consideration for the character. He never cheapens him, or condescends. He builds him inside-out'.

But the final word in this overview goes to Hollywood Reporter, which concluded: "Screenwriter-director Brewer transcends his generic story, laying out his beat from each character's heart. We come to know their inner fears and demons, including those of some particularly well-drawn supporting characters."

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