Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Hustle and Flow

MPAA Rating: R for sex and drug content, pervasive language and some violence

Reviewed by: Joseph Martinez

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Music
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 22, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Terrence Dashon Howard, DJ Qualls, Ludacris, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning
Director: Craig Brewer
Producer: Craig Brewer, John Singleton, Stephanie Allain
Distributor: Paramount Classics
Copyright, Paramount Classics
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Relevant Issues
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Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?

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Everybody gotta have a dream.

“You know it’s hard out here for a pimp, trying to get the money for the rent,” and so begins the chorus, or “hook” to the theme song for “Hustle and Flow”. This film stars Terrance Howard in the main role of DJay. DJay is a pimp/drug dealer who dreams of a greater life. Within the first 12 seconds of the film, the harsh language starts and does not let up. What else could one expect from a movie about a pimp trying to get into the rap music business? Howard’s acting is mesmerizing; you love him, loathe him and somehow relate to him all at the same time. He is the epitome of someone “stuck” in their life with no way out but to dream. This film is set in the ghetto of Memphis, in the lives of pimps and prostitutes, a world that most of us are fortunately not a part of.

What is interesting, yet a given, is that all the characters find shame and/or emptiness in their current status. They are searching for fulfillment, somehow thinking that they can find it in fame and fortune. Nola, one of DJay’s latest recruits seems to have a desire for any purpose at one point crying out, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Aside from the Lord’s name being taken in vain several times, there were other elements that would disturb any person of faith. DJay crosses paths with one of his old high school friends, Clyde—known as “Key” played by Anthony Anderson, in his finest performance. Clyde attends a local church and is faithful to his wife. He seems to be the only character that has some kind of stability. Clyde takes DJay and Nola to his church, as a woman is singing “Jesus give me a new name.” DJay cries as he listens to the song. The theme of the song touches the aspects of salvation: getting a new name, a clean slate, and a chance to start over. Where the disturbing factor lies is that his “church friends,” help him with the foul music, and smoke pot with him after their first recording session. They have no problem with the content of his music; rather their desire is to help him get a song on the radio. There is no attempt to help him find his greater purpose in life. Like the world, their focus is on the temporal—not the eternal. The fact that they are lukewarm church people is perhaps more disturbing to me than the lifestyle of pimps and prostitutes.

As the rest of the film unfolds, we see more of a comic spin and a glorification of a sinful lifestyle, yet somehow, you know if given the same circumstances, ignorance and lack of a godly restraint would lead us all to the same conclusions. Because of the language, content and visual elements, I urge fellow believers NOT to see this film (I do not know how many times I asked myself, why am I here?) and would be simply horrified if anyone took a child or a teenager to see this film.

Yet at the same time, I would be dishonest if I did not state that this is a very entertaining, well crafted, and well-acted film. As I stated before, this film brings the viewer into a different world, a different way of thinking; a dark and sad way of thinking. A life without a relationship with Jesus Christ is exactly that, whether it’s a pimp or a Wall Street Lawyer, there is no satisfaction in riches or Earthly glory. No matter how successful or wealthy one gets, without Christ there is always going to be a feeling of dissatisfaction and emptiness. This movie displays that, whether it meant to or not, and that is it’s only redeeming quality.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I have a different view of this film, although drug dealing and pimpin’ may be an immoral way of life. for Djay, it was the only way he could get himself and his friends out of thier situation. I can clearly say that as a christian man, if I had to do something immoral to get my friends and family out of a bad situation, without a doubt I would do it. For example a armed robber comes in and threatens you in your house… would you fight back? possibly shoot him as a last resort? Djay was at his last resort, he was stuck… and found a way out.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Arthur, age 35
Positive—I do not view “raunchy” movies because they usually lack a coherent and positive message for viewers who are attracted to “raunchy” movies. The energy that forced me to stay, rather than walk out of the movie, was my desire to see the brilliant actor, Terrance Howard. Knowing that not very many movie scripts are written for African American male actors, I prayed that there would be a redeeming factor in this movie. It hit me with a jolt in the appearance and magnificent voice of Jennifer Bynum who, in real life, brought Howard and the cast, and movie audiences to heart-gripping sobs. While people are quick to judge others, Jesus is not.

While people may not take time to understand the life struggles of others, Jesus does. Let us remember that to the character in the story, going from pimp to rap star was a huge step up the ladder. All of a sudden this aging and struggling pimp saw an opportunity to get out of the lifestyle where he had been stuck and frustrated as a human being. Never did he even seem remotely interested in engaging in sex.

At the beginning of the movie he was morally and financially bankrupt, However, at the end, we could see him experiencing a glimpse of love for the first time. At the beginning of the movie he was morally, and financially, bankrupt. But just with this modicum of success as a rapper, he suddenly valued his work. This gave him the courage to stand up and earn money through his own efforts. He achieved a major goal, from where he began.

This movie took us to the depths of his despair and brought hope to our hearts. This was an important movie. Seeing and hearing Ms. Bynum for the first time, led me to find out who she is. She is an inspired and gifted singer of gospel and classical music. As a result of seeing the movie and meeting her, I am now her agent and publicist…
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Mona Lombard, age over 55
Positive—I am a cinema major at a Christian College. As a person of faith going into the film industry, I find it to be of utmost importance to understand how films reflect and resonate with culture. This is a very gritty film that is not suitable for all audiences. This is because the setting and characters would not be convincing without portraying extensive amounts of immorality. The offensive content of the film is justifyable and not exploitave. I find it to be an oversight of this review to not mention that faith is actually portrayed as a positive element in the film.

The character Clyde is judged for participating in “foul music” and smoking weed when he should have apparantly preaching Jesus instead. However, considering that statistics would say that Christian lifestyles aren’t really that different than non-christians in most moral areas, I find this portrayal to be pretty acurate. I would even argue that Clyde does show Jesus to DJay. Clyde provides DJay with what will become a way out of his lifestyle through creativity. Instead of expecting DJay to be something he’s not he helps him right where he is: making rap music. He’s not afraid to be involved with someone that most people wouldn’t even talk to. He is able to reach DJay with his kindness because he is right out there with him, and although he is flawed, his positive deeds far outweigh his negative ones.

He says, “There are two types of people, those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk, the people that walk the walk sometimes talk the talk but most of the time they don’t talk at all because they’re walkin’ Don’t be the kind of Christian that is so busy talking that they don’t walk. There are many positive elements in this film have the power to motivave people to do great things with their talent. If you can’t see past a few bad words and mature content don’t see this film because you will miss an important message that in my opinion has had a positive influence…
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Drew Stedman, age 23
Positive—I personally thought the movie was a good example of life in the “ghetto.” I grew up in the projects in the Bronx, and am able to relate to Howard Terrances’ portrayal of what a pimp with a dream is all about. I gave this movie a rating of 5 because it deserved it. It had a good story line, great actors, and interesting to watch. The cursing was out of control, but guess what it’s reality. The movie is Rated R, hence children and teenagers should not be allowed to watch this movie. …some of us are blinded and hope that the reality of life is not real… it is. Yes, the movie was offensive because of how it portrayed women in the ghetto, and in general the life in the ghetto. But this is the real lives of some who live in the ghetto, not all… the ghetto does not entirely consist of pimps, drug dealers and hookers, it merely focused on the life of someone surrounded by the negative life in the ghetto. This movie should not be discredited merely because it has been exposed to those who would not even imagine or dream of what such a life in the ghetto entails.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Jasmin, age 32
Positive—I remember seeing the giant ads for this film in the movie theater and thought to myself, “I am NOT going to see a film that glorifies pimps and prostitution.” I knew the director was good and have really started to like Terence Howard, so I ended up renting the film. I compare this film to Prokofiev’s music—he writes some of the most dissonant, harsh music, but, within the midst of that “noise,” his beautiful melodies appear unbelievably beautiful, because of the contrast. That is how I experienced, “Hustle and Flow.” It is the first film I’ve ever seen that really treated these people like real people, not just stock characters.

It was very obvious that none of these people were proud of their lives; they all seemed broken down and damaged. We don’t know what led them to this life—usually not something good and wholesome. I want to write about some scenes that really moved me:

1. Anthony Anderson’s wife is a Christian, and she feels the conviction of judging these people. She visits them and brings a cake. We see her heart change when she makes the decision to interact with them.

2. When Djay is in the record store, making a deal with someone in the business, he “pimps” his white prostitute. It is so obvious how hurt she is in this scene, that she has become part of something so much better than her life as a hooker, but Djay just throws her back in the gutter for his own gain.

3. The scene when Djay meets Ludicris. You think that Ludicris is recognizing Djay, but it’s someone standing behind him. We feel the incredible humiliation that he’s suffering in this scene. When he sees that Ludicris has thrown his demo tape in the toilet… it’s the ultimate insult to him, and his explosion of anger really symbolizes how unbelievably depraved he is, due to all of the wrong choices he has made in his life.

4. The ending, in the jail, when the jail worker wants Djay to check out his music. This showed me that even when he is in prison, Djay still is an artist.

So…, as a Christian, I see this move as a piece of work that shows me that I have no right to judge these people. I grew up in a loving family, was comfortable financially and always had great opportunities to succeed in life. I became a Christian as an adult. I realize that we know people who are wealthy and “nice” who are on their way to hell, but people like Djay and his family of hookers are sinners, just like me. Jesus mixed it up with everyone, and we need to show his love, because we are all sinners in need of a savior.

I love film very much and realize that everyone has a different threshhold for violence, language, sex, etc. … as I said in the beginning, I was totally prejudiced toward this film, and, after seeing it, I think it is a masterpiece and can lead to great discussions… but, as always, it’s not for everyone.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Andrea Moon, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—…from a Christian perspective the movie “Hustle and Flow” was very earthy, raunchy, and all of the things we know as followers of Christ were against Christ and His principles. These things we know are of the world, and we do not expect anything more than what was given.

I would also like to clarify the name of the Negro Spiritual, “Changed Mah Name” was a song given to me by the Lord to sing in this movie and I would also like to say that although the movie had no redeeming qualities as we see it, there were many people whose lives where touched and soothed by the rendition of the Negro Spiritual. I am not taking any of the glory that so belongs to our God for it was He who gave me the opportunity to perform it and it was His Holy Spirit that gave the song power. You may have not felt His prescence in that particular scene but many people of the world did. It sort of reminds me of what Christ said, He came to heal the sick not the ones who are not in need of a physician.

I am not excusing the behavior or content of the movie, but I must say God works in many mysterious ways that we won’t ever understand.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/3½
—Jennifer Bynum Green, age 53
Neutral—I thought the movie was well made and entertaining. The main actor in the movie really showcased his talent. My favorite part of the movie was when the main character was sitting in a church listening to the gospel singer, and he shed some tears. It shows that even the hardest of people can be touched by the annointing and love of God. He actually wanted a better life for himself and the people around him, but just did not know how to do it in the right way.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—John T, age 40
Negative—As far as the acting and the storyline goes, I thought it was well put together. Yes, the content of the movie had some offensive material in it such as pimps, prostitutes and so on. So if you are easily offended. Do not see this movie. On the other hand if you can get past the subject matter to see good acting in Terrance Howard then check it out. I also ad too that I do not get a thrill out of seeing sinners suffer and die like someone else commented on. We as Christians ought to want to see the unsaved give their heart to Christ. This movie portrays a hard and ugly life for the main characters involve. Sin destroys, but God gives life.
My Ratings: Offensive/4
—John T, age 40
Negative—This movie was an honest portrayal of much of the lifestyle in the south’s rap and “hustlin” game… but I would definitely not recommend this movie… there’s nothing really edifying about the content or the story itself—no real hope is presented, and the lifestyle of hustlers is almost justified… wait till it comes out on video if you really want to watch it… but ladies, make sure you help your brothers out because there are a lot of scenes that men don’t need to see.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/3
—Diana, age 20
Negative—This movie had maybe one good scene, which is when Pimp had convictions in what he was doing in life.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Evai Dellafosse, age 36
Negative—I won free passes to see a sneak preview of this movie in my hometown. I should have realized why they were free. Why you shouldnt see it:

Why you should see this movie:

If you want to see a feel-good movie this is not it. If you want a case-study of sin in the real world, this is a good start.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1
—Kenny, age 22

Neutral—In response to Kenny’s post… “flow” is simply rapping, not really the lyrical quality, but more the way your words “flow” with the tempo of the beat. Just FYI
My Ratings: Average / 4
—CG, age 23
Comments from young people
Neutral—Hustle and Flow As a young teen and rapper, I am glad to have seen this movie, but I wish I had waited until I was older. There was offensive language, of course, and some sex. However, this was a very good movie, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. It definitely compromised Christian values for pure Hollywood-style entertainment, but if you view it with an open mind, it’s quite easy to enjoy. I love hip hop and rap, whether Christian or non-Christian, and this movie is obviously full of it. But it also shows that today our culture is truly perverted, and today’s entertainment is brainwashing America. That’s why I love this site, it truly gives us a Christian spotlight. I would recommend this movie for rap lovers who are a few years older than me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—N.t, age 13 (USA)
Movie Critics
…Smart, funny, incredibly foulmouthed…
—Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
…an inspiring tale about a man’s dream… the recording sessions tended to drag on…
—Heather Wood, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland
…this much-ballyhooed melodrama is little more than a Horatio Alger tale with a hip-hop spin…
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…funny, raunchy and, yes, uplifting…
—Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press