With several urban crime dramas under their respective belts in the 1990s (including the excellent Menace II Society), twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes ended the decade with American Pimp (1999), an infamous documentary about those who mack as a profession. Through a series of very informal conversations with real-life pimps---including the likes of "Payroll", "Ken Red", "C-Note", and several more---the Hughes brothers look to further explore this unique form of gainful employment.
Let's cut right to the chase here, shall we? For the most part, American Pimp is a very frustrating film for several reasons, containing just as many interesting moments as severe missteps. Thankfully, American Pimp is hardly watered-down, as the pimps here provide more than enough detail about "a day in the life of". After all, pop culture has practically sanitized the pimp, painting the picture of a wealthy cartoon-like man dressed in flashy clothes. Here, the flash is kept to a bare minimum, and that's where American Pimp is the most successful. The stripped-down, sketchy approach makes for an interesting ride, and suits the overall tone of the documentary well.
However, one still gets the feeling that the Hughes brothers are rooting for these guys all the way, and that's really hard to get around. I'm not here to preach by any means, but the most important goal of a documentary should be the objective presentation of everything. Sadly, this is generally a one-sided affair, offering little more than the lifestyle. With more polish and a little more thought, American Pimp could really have been a groundbreaking, thought-provoking affair. Still, despite its flaws, it paints a genuinely interesting picture of a truly unique lifestyle. Regardless of your moral standpoint in regards to the pimp, it doesn't look like they're going anywhere. You might as well get to know them, right?
Upon the film's first release on DVD (courtesy of MGM), American Pimp was presented in a slightly shortened version. Shout! Factory has seen fit to dub this re-release Raw Outtakes and the Hard Truth, although there's only one outtake and not much more hard truth. The inclusion of a bonus interview---featuring Huggy Bear himself, Snoop Dogg---has been inserted back into the main feature, although his appearance doesn't add much more to the movie (other than a little "star power"). For most casual fans, this release is hardly worth the upgrade---especially with the lackluster technical presentation and no traditional extras----although the second disc may sweeten the pot a little. Read on for more, and let's see how this one stacks up:
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Although I don't have the original release to offer a comparison, I doubt it could look any worse than this one. That's not to say that this is a terrible treatment, as the raw visual feel of the documentary doesn't lend itself to a high-end DVD presentation. However, this re-release is not anamorphically enhanced, which is quite a surprise for any 2004 release. Although the enhancement may not have made any significant difference, one gets the feeling that Shout! Factory didn't exactly pull out all the stops for Raw Outtakes and the Hard Truth.
Faring slightly better is the film's 2.0 Surround mix, which comes through adequately with clear dialogue and a great soundtrack. As with the video treatment, the low-budget nature of American Pimp means that a truly enveloping audio presentation is pretty much out of the question. Still, it's a decent effort that fits the film well, and fans aren't likely to be disappointed with the efforts of Shout! Factory.
Menu Design & Presentation:
Featuring an appropriately rough menu design, the menus for Raw Outtakes and the Hard Truth are about as basic as they come. With only two options available---"Roll It" (Play Movie) and "Choose Your Pimp" (Chapter Selection)---the presentation is simple enough and makes for smooth navigation. The 65-minute film is divided into 6
chapters pimps and no layer change was detected (with the short running time and non-anamorphic video treatment, I'd guess that this was a single-layer disc). This 2-disc set was packaged in a slim double keepcase, although the actual artwork was not complete for this screener copy.
With absolutely no traditional special features to speak of, this release was initially disappointing. At the very least, a commentary track with the Hughes brothers would have been interesting, or even more deleted scenes (if there even were more). Still, the bonus features are somewhat salvaged with the inclusion of the film's Soundtrack CD on Disc 2, which apparently is the first release of this compilation. Featuring a broad spectrum of 1970's icons like Rick James, Marvin Gaye, War, Curtis Mayfield, the Ohio Players, and many more (including obligatory dialogue clips from the film itself), this is a great inclusion that somewhat justifies the re-release of this DVD. If more attention were paid to the DVD itself, however, Raw Outtakes and the Hard Truth may have been a much more satisfying release.
Although I can't say the film itself was one I genuinely enjoyed (at least from a moral standpoint), it was still interesting to see some first-hand accounts of some of our generation's most abysmal role models. With only a dozen minutes of new footage and absolutely no extras to speak of (except for the excellent soundtrack disc), only the most hardcore fans will want to even think of double-dipping. If, on the other hand, you're new to American Pimp and looking to buy, I'd marginally recommend this new release over the old one (although the original can easily be found for under $10). Either way, the disappointing technical treatment of this film all but sinks Raw Outtakes and the Hard Truth, but the film and soundtrack are interesting enough to make this release worth a weekend look. Rent It.
Other Links of Interest
What's Your Pimp Name?
"Dopetastic R. Shizzle" is a playa-congratulatin' art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.