Djay (Howard) has troubles. He wants to be a rapper and thinks he has the talent to make it, but he has a child to rear, a stable of prostitutes to manage, no money, and the depressed town of Memphis itself seems to be against him. When a famous rapper announces a nearby appearance, Djay plans the ultimate hustle that he hopes will lead to his big break.
Transpose Stanley Tucci's small-restaurant woes from "Big Night" to an aspiring hip hopper from Memphis, and you'll have a sense of what "Hustle & Flow" is all about. Craig Brewer's directorial debut reeks of Southern authenticity, and Terrence Howard's simply stunning lead turn as Djay justifiably launched him to stardom. The music is great, the cinematography is southern-fried, but what's most impressive is how tenderly Brewer treats his female characters; they're not just a pack of shrill harridans and drug addicts — these ladies are as tough and complex as the leading man. If there's a better portrait of Southern race-relations in contemporary cinema, I haven't seen it.