Directed by Craig Brewer, starring Terence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Paula Jai Parker, DJ Qualls and Ludacris.

Music biopics have been enjoying a very successful period of late. '8 Mile' and 'Ray' have set the scene in recent years and the soon to be released 'Walk the Line' is already being touted as a major contender for the next Academy Awards.

Indeed, even Irish director Jim Sheridan is jumping on board this ship by helming the 50 Cent-starring 'Get Rich or Die Tryin''.

'Hustle & Flow' occupies a different genre, as it is a purely fictional tale of a down-and-out pimp's quest to secure a role for himself in the hierarchy of American Rap. However, it cashes in on the thirst among the movie-going audience, created by these biopics, for stories of unlikely individuals trying to carve out a life for themselves among the rich and famous.

DJay (Howard) is a drug-selling pimp who is wondering what might have been in his life when he is offered the chance to revive a promising early career as a rap artist. A visit to town of rap legend Skinny Black (Ludacris) allows him a window of opportunity to make the break onto the big stage.

The irony of the situation is that if DJay is going to leave his current life behind him he must rely on his current criminal occupations to dig him out of the hole he is in. He also risks dragging everyone close to him deeper into that hole by chancing everything they have invested in him in seeking his big chance with Skinny Black.

Howard's performance is first rate and the supporting cast are also top notch. Unfortunately, they are given little to work with as relationships are only briefly touched on in passing and never developed enough. 

The only relationship that is dealt with in any detail is the one between DJay and Nola (Manning), one of his girls. If we had been given a small percentage of the focus here on the other relationships in DJay's life there may have been a more accurate portrayal of the individual the writer-director Craig Brewer was trying to create.

Instead, the plot seems to have been sugar-coated and has happy coincidences to smooth over any possible angst between characters, with the exception of the completely overboard falling out between DJay and Lexus (Parker) which becomes almost comical.

However, 'Hustle & Flow' is extremely watchable despite these faults and everyone will come out of the cinema with the original songs and music trapped in their heads for quite some time. 

Those who enjoy their tales of tragedy with an overplayed happy twist will get a great kick out of 'Hustle & Flow'. 

Patrick Kennedy