A scene from 'American Pimp'
Courtesy Photo
*** stars 86 minutes | Unrated (call it 'R')
Opened: Friday, June 16, 2000
Directed by the Hughes Brothers


Interesting documentaries such as this one are usually at least as good on TV as on the big screen. Nothing will be lost in the transition.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10/17/2000

 LINKS for this film
Official site
at movies.yahoo.com
at Internet Movie Database
Shockingly frank street sex trade exposé 'American Pimp' a triumph of objective documentary filmmaking

By Rob Blackwelder

Disturbing, shocking, sad, funny, revealing, twisted, and utterly frank, "American Pimp" is a documentary about the world's second oldest profession and its place in the darker recesses of land of the free and the home of the brave.

Directed by the Hughes Brothers (Allen and Albert, who made "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents") and pieced together from an astounding array of uninhibited interviews with prostitution peddlers from coast to coast, this film is hard to watch but so honest -- and sometimes so entertaining and even funny -- that it's even harder to turn away from. But while you'll be fascinated while watching it, you'll also want to take a shower afterwards.

Without a hint of manipulation from the Hughes boys behind the camera, the picture's raw interview footage speaks for itself as these hardened men -- some of whom amass fortunes off the favors of hapless, compliant women -- answer very direct questions (e.g. Why does a hooker need a pimp?) in no uncertain terms.

Topics discussed include drugs (or lack of drugs, depending on who is talking), violence (sexual and otherwise), trade lingo (the words "bitch" and "ho" are used like commas), territorial conflicts, and the accuracy of the flamboyant pimp stereotypes. One of the subjects really wears snake skin suits. Another dresses like an aged preppie for rounds of golf at a Hawaii country club when he's not on the streets.

One passage of the picture focuses on the changing of the guard in the "industry," from old school players, who talk a game of respect amongst themselves and at least pretended to care about the women in their stables, to modern macs, who are armed, dangerous and abominably abusive.

A few hookers get a word in edgewise (some alone and candid, others visibly cautious while on the arms of their procurers). So do a few acquiescent family members of the pimps.

In another passage, the Hughes' take a peek inside legalized prostitution at the Bunny Ranch near Las Vegas for a revealing compare-and-contrast episode.

And just when you're ready to draw what seems like an inevitable conclusion, they have a few surprises in store, too.

"American Pimp" is undeniably a low-end production. Shot on video, it looks like it was made for about $5,000. But with its unblinking portrait of this shadowy sex trade that is shown to be thriving in every city across the nation, it has as much (if not more) impulsive impact as any of the preachy, well-funded documentaries that habitually win Oscars.

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