4.5 stars. We've all seen this story before. A gangster, or a pimp as it is in this story, sees a chance to crawl out of the nowhere life he is seemingly trapped in and achieve some sort of redemption and/or trancendency through music. It's easy to root for the nobody reaching for the brass ring against all odds in the dim hope of becoming recognized as a greater human being than anybody thought possible. But most of these type of films fall flat due to poor writing and second-rate acting. "Hustle & Flow" is a surprising exception. The acting, all around, is often astonishing. Terrence Howard leads the way with a dominating performance which reminded me of the fine work of Benicio Del Toro, where both actors completely lose themselves in the role and we all believe the character actually exists somewhere out there in the world. The dialogue is superb, and with so many good actors drawn to this film, the words reach extremely high levels of literary sharpness. The biggest surprise for me, however, was that I thoroughly enjoyed all the music throughout the movie. I despise most Rap, but in "Hustle & Flow" the rapping is smooth and enveloped with soul, thus achieving much more depth of emotion in the final summation. Once again, an independent film shows up all those over-hyped, over-budget Hollywood films that we are force-fed each year. This is the first DVD in months where, as the credits began to roll, I eagerly hit the menu button and scoured the special features section for more "Hustle & Flow." Except for the familiar plotting, which is the only thing even slightly generic about this movie, the end result is phenomenal, all-around excellence.