"Mummy, mummy, when I grow up I want to be a whore."

If this plot is to be believed, it really wouldn't be a such a bad career move. The pimp is the cuddly, look-after-my-pregnant-girls type, who only gets angry with the "nasty whore" because she doesn't take enough care with her kid.

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Edgy camerawork fails to distract from the fact that Hustle & Flow - a hit a Sundance - is about as edgy as the crust on Mom's apple pie. No matter how hip it looks, this is a familiar fairytale, sprinkled with a layer of crunk and street talk.

DJay (Terrence Howard) is surely the nicest pimp ever committed to celluloid. He may deal drugs and dames, but he's a big ol' softy at heart - hell, this guy even cries in church.

He has a trio of "bitches"; skinny minny country white trash Nola (Taryn Manning), hot-headed bad mum Lexus (Paula Jai Parker) and heavily pregnant, all-round earth-mother-prostitute Shug (Taraji P Henson).

He isn't coping too well with the gals back home and a chance encounter with an old school pal Clyde (Anthony Anderson) leads him to rethink his life with a view to becoming the next big thing in rap. Using the girls' tricks to finance his dream, he sets up a studio in his house and starts planning to hustle his music into the ears of local man turned gangsta rapper Skinny Black (Ludacris - that's Chris Bridges to his mom).

If you're prepared to suspend disbelief as regards the terms and conditions of whoring and pimping in downtown Memphis, this film has a lot of charm. Howard is great as DJay, treading a fine line between hope and despair, and Manning and Henson are excellent in essentially one-dimensional roles.

There isn't anything here you haven't seen before. Pros have been making it good since Julia Roberts got her man in Pretty Woman and, despite the thin veneer of drugs and sex, there's a solid oak table of Fame, 8 Mile and any number of underdog-aims-to-be-topdog films lying beneath. If it wasn't for the fruity language, you could take your gran.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2005
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Niceguy pimp becomes killa streetsmart rap artist in feelgood Memphis sweetdream.
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Amber Wilkinson ***

Director: Craig Brewer

Writer: Craig Brewer

Starring: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, DJ Qualls, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal

Year: 2005

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

Sundance 2005

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