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‘Hustle’ flows brilliantly

The annual Independent film gold rush at the Sundance Film Festival

normally yields at least one film that the studios fall all over

themselves trying to acquire.

This year’s Indie darling was “Hustle & Flow,” winner of the

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festival’s Audience Award and Cinematography Award. It’s not hard to

imagine that Paramount Pictures had their checkbook out before the

film’s first scene was over.

Composed with an enormous amount of wit, humor and emotion,

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“Hustle & Flow,” written and directed by Craig Brewer, reworks a

well-worn genre often crippled by cliche. This is the story of DJay

(Terrence Howard), a Memphis-based pimp and drug dealer who is

working trash-strewn back alleys with his stable of girls, looking to

get out of the “life” via the world of hip-hop.

The small-time DJay experiences an epiphany while sitting in on a

gospel music session. He decides to exploit his talent with the flow,

or wordplay, to leave this graveyard life behind to realize his dream

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of success as a rap artist. In an attempt to breakout, he enlists Key

(Anthony Anderson), a local music producer, to help him create a demo

in time for an upcoming visit by local rap hero, Skinny Black

(Ludacris).

Set during a typically balmy Memphis summer, sweat clings to DJay,

and the rest of the cast, like sin. Shot in a funky fashion

reminiscent of the great American films of the 1970s, the heat is so

palpable that the characters practically stick to the camera lens. In

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this underworld, air-conditioning is a luxury, so much so that Nola

(Taryn Manning), delightfully dim though surprisingly sly, can, as

DJay puts it, “sniff it out.”

Following his turn as a cool TV director in “Crash,” Howard

delivers another great performance as a morally conflicted man trying

not only to survive, but rise above the questionable actions of his

past.

DJay, however, retains our sympathies through the sheer force of

his personality as he and his crew come to understand the necessity

of redemption. Their salvation arrives, not through pretzel plot

machinations, but with characterizations that feel real and most

importantly, earned.

* BOB HARRIS works in a Burbank real estate office. He is an

original son of the South where music flows as big and fast as the

Mississippi River.


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