Combustible Celluloid
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With: Terrence Dashon Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, DJ Qualls, Ludacris, Isaac Hayes
Written by: Craig Brewer
Directed by: Craig Brewer
MPAA Rating: R for sex and drug content, pervasive language and some violence
Running Time: 114
Date: 01/01/2005

Hustle & Flow (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Beating the Rap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The underrated Terrence Howard (Hart's War, Crash), an African American actor with a husky murmur of a voice and mesmerizing blue eyes, finally gets his first shot at the "A" list. With his superior performance as DJay, a Memphis pimp who turns rapper, he elevates a standard rags-to-riches story to something more than the sum of its parts. In Hustle & Flow, Howard smoothly adopts an accent and a walk and hardens his face just enough, but not so much that you can't feel his anguish. During his recording sessions, aided by Key (Anthony Anderson, in a rare subdued dramatic role) and Shelby (DJ Qualls), the film really flies, delving into the bursts of excitement and long periods of boredom that come with any creative endeavor. But the rest of the film sinks, hinging as it does on a creaky formula; DJay hangs all hope on getting his demo tape to a local rapper (Ludacris), who has hit the big time, with predictable results. Taryn Manning and Taraji P. Henson co-star in superb supporting turns as DJay's girls, each carefully revealing deeper facets to their shallow characters. Newcomer Craig Brewer writes and directs this Sundance favorite.

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