Hustle & Flow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Objectively, this transfer had some problems, but since all seemed to be intentional, it worked well as a whole.
For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Some light softness crept in at times, but not with any real frequency. Instead, most of the flick appeared well defined and detailed. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a little light edge enhancement popped up periodically throughout the movie. Print flaws seemed absent, as I noted no signs of specks, marks, or other defects. Grain could be somewhat heavy, though.
Flow presented a limited palette that featured largely stylized colors. Within those constraints, the tones looked fine. They were reasonably concise and vivid despite a brownish cast to much of the movie. Black levels seemed fairly deep and firm, while shadows were clean and well-developed. Ultimately, Flow looked good given the stylistic constraints of the cinematography.
When I examined the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hustle & Flow, I found a surprisingly involving piece. The mix emphasized music to terrific effect. It used all five channels to create an immersive setting in which the songs and score engulfed and embraced us. Given the movie’s use of rap, this was important, and it created a much more impressive soundfield than I expected.
Music dominated the mix, but other elements helped flesh out the mix as well. Some louder effects like thunder and guns popped up in the expected spots. These opened up the soundfield and helped make it lively and engrossing.
At all times, the mix offered excellent audio quality. Again, music highlighted the proceedings. The songs and score always sounded terrific. They presented crisp highs and terrific low-end. Bass was absolutely stellar for all elements. The rap tunes highlighted this best, but some effects like thunder also pumped deep, tight bass.
Effects also seemed clear and accurate, while speech was represented well. I couldn’t call all the lines easily intelligible, but that stemmed from the actors’ accents. At times it was tough to understand what they said, an issue that stemmed from articulation, not from recording quality. I rarely give “A”-level grades to soundtracks dominated by music, but Flow used the spectrum so well and sounded so good that I thought it merited that mark.
As we move to the DVD’s extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director Craig Brewer. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Brewer gets into the personal influences he brought to the project and traces its path to the screen. He lets us know elements of his career and how he worked with producer John Singleton. Brewer also chats about the cast and their performances, the use of music and creating the tunes, shooting in Memphis and that region’s role in the flick, story and characters, and a variety of technical topics, most of which connect to life as a low-budget filmmaker.
Brewer creates an excellent commentary. He shows great enthusiasm for his subject and provides a lively, no-holds-barred view of his work. He delivers all the expected information plus more, especially when he ties into the personal aspects of the film. We even find some touching notes such as how his father supported him and an homage to his dad. This is a top-notch track.
After this we find three featurettes. Behind the Hustle runs 27 minutes, 19 seconds. It includes behind the scenes bit, movie snippets, and remarks from Brewer, producers John Singleton and Stephanie Allain, and actors Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Juicy J, DJ Qualls, Elise Neal, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker and Ludacris. It looks at why Howard joined the cast and what he did with his role, teaching Howard to rap, other characters and actors, and the depiction of the south. Some of this comes across as a simple recap of the story, but we get some nice insights into casting and characters. Along with some fun audition footage, those elements mean that the show’s worth a look.
More behind the scenes material shows up in the 14-minute and 39-second By Any Means Necessary. It features Brewer, Singleton, Allain, Howard, Anderson, Henson, and Qualls. “Necessary” looks at the story’s origins and its script, Brewer’s prior work and its influence on Flow, problems getting financing for the flick, shooting in Memphis, dealing with the challenges of the low budget, and the movie’s positive reception at Sundance. Inevitably, “Necessary” repeats some bits from the commentary. It opens things up a bit, though, and it proves useful.
For the final featurette, we get Creatin’ Crunk. It fills 13 minutes, 40 seconds, and includes notes from Brewer, Singleton, Allain, Manning, score composer Scott Bomar, actor Isaac Hayes, and musicians Charles “Skip” Pitts and Al Kapone. The program looks at the flick’s music. We find out about the score and its recording as well as the rap tunes. Again, Brewer touches on this in his commentary, but we learn quite a lot more here. It’s especially good to see the musicians at work.
The July 6 2005 Memphis Hometown Premiere shows the flick’s debut there. We see Brewer and other participants as they arrive and chat with the press. We also watch Brewer receive an honor from the mayor. Frankly, it’s not very interesting.
Six Promotional Spots are more fun to see. These don’t just offer clips from the movie. Instead, most show unique snippets with Howard and some of the others. This makes them pretty cool to watch.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, Four Brothers, The Honeymooners and Bad News Bears. These also appear in the DVD’s Previews area.
Despite being set in a rough environment, Hustle & Flow feels like a throwback flick. If Mickey Rooney could have played a pimp, then Flow is the sort of movie he’d have made. The film entertains but doesn’t quite gel, largely due to the incongruous nature of the story. The DVD offers good picture and audio along with a nice set of extras highlighted by an excellent commentary. Flow merits a rental.