Hustle & Flow
A penny-ante Memphis pimp (Terrence Howard) dreams of becoming the next big hip-hop star. The basic plot is as old as The Jazz Singer and has popped up over the years in biopics of everyone from Beethoven to Glenn Miller to Buddy Holly. Here, writer-director Craig Brewer tries to give it a gritty, hard edge but can only pull it off in bits and pieces. The movie has flashes of raw energy, but Brewer keeps blowing the moment. His movie’s greatest asset is the up-and-coming Howard, whose performance teems with feral intelligence. The best scene comes midway, in a makeshift recording studio, as a producer (Anthony Anderson) and an engineer (DJ Qualls) lay down a backup vocal track sung by one of the pimp’s dimwitted whores (Taraji P. Henson, whose bluesy, aching voice briefly brings the movie to life).