Screens New reviews

Hustle & Flow

Dir. and writ. Craig Brewer; feat. Terrence Dashon Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, DJ Qualls (R)

A deeply involving, realistic, and well-executed film, Hustle & Flow is an assertive urban drama intensified through strong narrative and an amazing performance by lead actor Terrence Dashon Howard (Crash).

A pimp by trade, DJay (Howard) is having what he considers a "midlife crisis." A long-buried passion for music and floetry is begging to be fed, and with an almost-pathetic sense of urgency, DJay believes that if a few cards fall his way, he can become a famous rap artist. When opportunity presents itself in Key (Anderson), a long-lost middle-school classmate who does sound work for a local church, DJay decides to pursue his aspirations. No one denies DJay has the talent (And believe this: You don't have to enjoy rap music to catch yourself moving to the rhythm of his song "Whoop That Trick"), but with a lifestyle consisting of drugs, prostitution, and abuse, it's incredible that DJay is still alive much less possesses the ambition to become an overnight sensation.

Taryn Manning and Terrence Howard star in Hustle & Flow, a tale of music and redemption that won the Audience and Best Cinematography awards at Sundance.

One of the film's major accomplishments is allowing the audience to care about DJay. It was easy to root for Eminem in 8 Mile, but Eminem wasn't pimpin' hoes out of the back of his broken-down Chevy. Hustle & Flow shows the emotional versatility of DJay, transforming him into a likable visionary and proving that everyone, even the all-American pimp, is looking for the American Dream.

By Kiko Martinez

Dot the I

Writ. & dir. Matthew Parkhill; feat. Gael García Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James D?Arcy (R)

According to the custom of "hen night," a bride-to-be is allowed to select any man for the final kiss of her single state. In London, days before her marriage to Barnaby (D'Arcy), a wealthy Englishman she met six months before, Carmen (Verbeke) and her girlfriends make merry in a French restaurant to celebrate her impending nuptials. Carmen exercises her hen night privilege in a long, impassioned clench with a stranger dining nearby. Despite misgivings, Carmen weds Barnaby, but the stranger from the restaurant, an unemployed Brazilian actor named Kit (Bernal), pursues and eventually beds the spirited newlywed.

That is all I dare divulge without undercutting the pleasures of a cunning script that takes care to dot every cinematic i. "The camera never lies even when it deceives," notes Barnaby, who wields several expensive cameras. Writer-director Matthew Parkhill's camera is diabolically deceptive, but a viewer who stays through the closing credits will be rewarded with fundamental truths about art, love, and retribution. Constructed, like The Magus or F/X, in overlapping layers of artifice, Dot the I fits the description a character applies to a film-within-the-film: "kind of an emotional snuff movie." Snuff this rich exhilarates.