Hustle & Flow

Hustle & Flow (2005)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, DJ Qualls, Ludacris
Extras: Audio Commentary, Behind-The-Scenes Documentary, Featurettes, Promotional Spots

After being approached for the role of DJay for the film "Hustle & Flow", actor Terrence Howard decided to turn it down for various reasons. With not wanting to portray a pimp or hustler at the time and looking for more challenging roles, etc. caused the producers of this film to patiently wait out his decision. Choosing to go with Terrence Howard and never considering another actor for the role seemed to put the producers in a tight spot, until a year or so later, when Terrence decided to sit down and read the script from start to finish. Discovering that the character of DJay was unlike anything he had originally thought, Terrence agreed to do the role, much to the relief of writer / director Craig Brewer and producers John Singleton and Stephanie Allain. After watching Terrence Howard masterfully pull off such awesome performances in "Crash", "Four Brothers" and "Lackawanna Blues", I was also pleased that he committed to the role of DJay. After watching "Hustle & Flow" it would really be hard to imagine anyone else portraying that character. There are certain roles and films that are just meant for a given actor, I know we can all think of a few titles that come to mind and "Hustle & Flow" was simply one of those situations.

DJay (Terrence Howard) a small time pimp who runs a small number of whores from his typical late model lowered Chevrolet Caprice, complete with performance rims and primer paint. One day comes up with the idea of putting together some lyrics that he has floating through his thoughts with musical tracks to make a possible demo tape. Reaching an almost mid-life crisis and motivated by financial freedom, rather than purely focusing on creative expression, leads DJay to call upon pal and sound engineer Clyde (Anthony Anderson) for help. With Clyde bringing in geeky musician Shelby (DJ Qualls) to help them lay down some original rap inspired tracks. Turning his ramshackle home into a make shift recording studio, DJay, Clyde and Shelby begin to experiment with their musical ideas, later bringing in a very pregnant ex-prostitute Shug (Taraji P. Henson) to add a few lyrical surprises to tie the tracks together. Having the idea of approaching local rapper turned superstar Skinny Black (Ludacris), who is returning to their hometown of Memphis for a visit, prompts DJay to set up a chance encounter through a mutual acquaintance. Hoping to pass along his demo tape, believing that he only has this one chance to prove he has what it takes to make it. Before you start to think that "Hustle & Flow" will play out like a typical rags to riches kind of story that we have all seen a million times before, the story throws in a few surprise to leave you with a totally original film experience.

Offering a great mood of desperation bordering on depression, actor Terrence Howard hooks you in with his terrific performance of DJay, in the sticky sweat soaked summer days spent hustling in Tennessee. I also have to mention the fact that all of the main performers in "Hustle & Flow" turned in fantastic all around performances. From pimped-out whore Nola (Taryn Manning) with her filthy-looking blond corn-rowed hair to quietly-shy Shug (Taraji P. Henson) who surprises everyone when she belts out some sweet melodies for the showcased songs in the film, acting is truly top notch.

Paramount Home Entertainment brings the Paramount Classics branded "Hustle & Flow" to DVD in impeccably fine form. With a transfer that offers deep rich black levels and fantastic color saturation displaying every minor detail present in the film, right down to the tinniest drops of sweat seen on the faces of the actors. I did not notice any dust particles or problems with the video compression during the exhibition. The presentation of "Hustle & Flow" furnishes an intended slightly higher contrast look, which added a distinctive feel to the overall pleasing appearance of the film.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provides heavy duty bass that truly delivers during the rap / hip hop flavored soundtrack. Vocals are reproduced to appear natural in exhibition, with the overall soundstage taking full advantage of all available channels present.

For extras, the special features section starts off with a good 30 minute documentary titled "Behind the Hustle" that begins with clips of cast and filmmakers sitting down for a script read through, then on to various interviews with those involved with the film. I found input from Terrence Howard and John Singleton to be the most rewarding. Especially when the two talked of how importance was placed on presenting the character of DJay as an untypical lowly pimp. A completely un-glorified version to what we normally see as gold chain wearing, money flashing hustler-type individuals that have made a presence or two on screen in the past.

The featurette "By Any Means Necessary" highlights the trials of getting this film made. From finding a studio to finance to waiting out actor Terrence Howard's decision on committing to the role of DJay, "Hustle & Flow" was in development for a period of over four years and only took a four week shoot to complete principal photography. This featurette provides a good insight from a behind-the-scenes perspective.

Another featurette that gives the observation on the history of hustlers-turned-musicians and the virtual Mesopotamia of modern music that is Memphis Tennessee, is the focus of "Creatin' Crunk"

Footage from the films hometown premiere is the subject of the aptly named "Memphis Hometown Premiere", with a promotional spots and previews section finishing off the added value materials section.

Musically inspired, terrifically performed, well written tale of the struggles that face a down and out individual attempting to make something out of his life is what makes up this touching and awe-inspiring film, "Hustle and Flow".