Hustle and Flow Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 2006 (2005 Release) Rated: R (sex, drug content, pervasive language and some violence) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays Audio: English DD 5.1/ 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English Time: 115 minutes Disc Format: DVD-9 Case Style: Keep case Craig Brewer’s “Hustle and Flow” is a story about dreams, albeit, the dreams of a drug dealing pimp in Memphis. Terrence Howard plays Djay, the aforementioned dealing pimp, who carts his girls around in a broken down Chevy while he pontificates on his dead end life and his aspirations for something better. For Djay, this better life comes in the form of the flow (similar to rap, for the uninitiated) as a means for him to express his frustrations with what his life has become. He lives in a small home with his three working girls, one of which is pregnant, the other defiant, and the third (who appears to be his main earner) trying to get a clue of what she can be. Djay finds a sounding board, both literally and figuratively in his old school mate, Key. He convinces Key to help him pursue this dream, so they set up a home recording studio in Djay’s house. Key also enlists Shelby (D.J Qualls), a skinny white kid, to program the beats for Djay’s rhymes. Once the trio has their equipment up and running, they proceed to cut their tracks. While looking for a hook in a track, Shelby has the pregnant Shug (one of Djay’s “girls”) belt out a four line chorus that winds up being just what was needed to make a good crunk song great. Inspired, the group goes on to knock out their demo tape. Issac Hayes plays bar owner Arnel and he tells Djay a local rapper who has hit the MTV jackpot is coming in on July 4th to party. Since Djay can provide some choice bud to the rapper, Skinny Black (Ludacris), Djay decides he will give his demo to Skinny. Once Djay encounters Skinny, he is confronted with the true nature of stardom and the interjection of reality into his dream. Djay must also make the choice of how far he will go to make the dream come true. Brewer has assembled an outstanding cast led by Howard. Howard spent 2005 gaining notoriety for this role as well as his role in Paul Haggis’ “Crash”, where he played an LA socialite who is the victim of racial profiling taken to the extreme. In both roles, Howard puts his heart and soul into the performances, and it is a real treat to see his range in these contrasting characters. Taryn Manning, who plays the hooker who wants to break free from her derogatory life, also shines and shows us how Djay’s dream will continue, regardless of his circumstances at the end of the picture. I am not a fan of rap (or drug dealing or pimping either, for that matter), and those with similar views should look at this picture for its story and performances and bypass its somewhat scurrilous subject matter. Video: "Hustle and Flow" is presented anamorphically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture's contrast seems to be boosted as originally shot to give it a very gritty urban feel that enhances the environment of the story. Brewer and cinematographer Amelia Vincent (who was also the second unit DP on "Lemony Snicket") use a 70's style bubble lettering for the film's title and does a quick homage to the 70's films "Hustle and Flow" emulates. Colors are deep and rich; most of the nighttime shots look like they were bathed in neon for effect. Flesh tones, as expected, are also nicely rendered and complement the settings. Black levels are very deep, and shadows show adequate detail. I am usually turned off by films that use these high contrast effects since it is done due to the story's inability to get its grittiness across. However, movies such as "Hustle and Flow" flourish when shot like this. There was very little edge enhancement noticed, nor was there any compression artifacts. This is a really nice video presentation. Audio: I was surprised this was a very subtle soundtrack that only really kicked in when the music was presented. Most of the action is in the fronts, utilizing the stereo effects. When Djay begins recording his first track, the LFE grabs the bass of the beat and the surrounds kick in for ambience. Voices are natural and realistic and there is no distortion noted. Bonus material: Feature length commentary by writer/director Craig Brewer. Behind the Hustle (27:25): discusses the background of the genesis of the picture and its production. Featuring interviews with the cast and crew, including producers John Singleton and Stephanie Allain By Any Means Necessary (14:36): is a little more in depth on the background of the origin of the story as well as the compromises that were made to get the picture made. Creatin’ Crunk (13:37): Background on the music of the picture. Memphis Hometown Premier (5:02): from July 6, 2005. Brewer sports a personal heirloom of the legendary Sam Phillips! 6 promotional spots: These “shorts” (:30 – 1:00 each) feature new material of Djay and other characters introducing aspects of the picture interwoven with scenes from the picture. Conclusions: Since HTF is a family friendly website, I caution you this is an adult film due to its content. However, it is one of the best pictures of 2005 that features some outstanding performances by Howard and Manning. This is also a story of dreams, both of Brewer and of Djay, that are realized through difficult times and hard work. Notes: Due to some issues with my HT equipment, the review was done on a combination of both of my set-ups. However, my evaluations were consistent between both set-ups.