AMERICAN PIMP(director/writer: Allen and Albert Hughes; cinematographer: Albert Hughes; editor: Doug Ray; cast: Rosebudd, C-Note, Charm, Gorgeous Dre, K-Red, Too Short, Jade, Latrice, Spicy, Filmore Slim, Danny Brown, Bishop Don Magic Juan; Runtime: 86; MGM/Underworld Entertainment/Seventh Art release; 1999)

“The film could never get to the core of what makes the pimp think in such a perverted way.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A documentary from the Hughes twins, Allen and Albert (Dead Presidents, Menace II Society), about street pimps, all of whom are African-American. An offscreen interviewer questions the pimps about their lives and profession. It is mostly the pimps who do the talking for their ho’s and in the egotistical and flamboyant way you would expect them to be, is what you get. I learned that the word “bitch” is their favorite word, as it seemed to crop up in every sentence. It makes for a film with nothing fresh to say but if one has a sense a humor for their lifestyle, then some of what they rap about might seem amusing. They seem to all want to be thought of as businessmen, in the business because it is the easiest way for them to make big money. It’s also a power trip accomplished by manipulating the girls to work for them, mostly by humiliating them and keeping them in place. These verbose pimps had a smart answer for everything and never knew when to shut their face.

The Hughes brothers used as their pimp role models the feather-hatted, fur-coated, diamond ring-wearing, gold chain wearing, flashy Cadillac-cruising pimp of the late ’70s blaxploitation movies–like The Mack and Willie Dynamite. Also used as reference was Iceberg Slim’s best-seller Pimp, The Story of My Life. We meet pimps such as: Fillmore Slim, C-Note, Charm, K-Red, Gorgeous Dre, Bishop Don Magic Juan, and Rosebudd. They readily discuss their business arrangements: including percentages, lifestyles, knockin’ (stealing another pimp’s ho’), and the thrill they get from women giving them money. These dudes needed no prompting to talk, as they just love to brag about about themselves.

“Priests need nuns” and “Doctors need nurses” yaps C-Note, a San Francisco pimp. He then concludes, “So ho’s need pimps.” He tries to make the same case all the other pimps in the film make — that the girls need them to show them the ropes, how to make money, to be their security blankets, protectors, and counselors.

The race issue was brought up right from the film’s onset as a number of white interviewees, regular citizens, note that their impression of a pimp is that he’s the lowest form of humanity. While, we are told, in the black community, the pimp is looked upon as a successful entrepreneur, riding around in fancy cars, flashing wads of money, dressed in a flamboyant style, where his snake-gaiter shoes might cost him a grand and where he boasts Hollywood style status in the community. We also see that the black pimps have a number of white girls in their stable and we see how they treat them like dirt; the film implies that this could be payback for the days of slavery, of master and slave relations.

The film was all about pimp style and their projected image, as they run a hard-sell riff about the virtues of their work. There are different styles of pimping, but the film mentions them only as being “macks” and “players” or “real pimps” and “perpetrator pimps,” but no further clarity is attempted. It also failed to get the women’s side to this story of abuse, primarily taking the pimp at his word. The film could never get to the core of what makes the pimp think in such a perverted way. The filmmakers were taken for a ride by the pimps, who were looking only to pose in front of the camera and say their thing. They were hungry for their 15-minutes of fame. The only laughs I got out of this bleak look at an American subculture, was hearing how a few pimps retired and what they are now up to. Danny Brown became a blues singer so he could keep his pimp’s wardrobe. While a Hollywood pimp called Rosebudd, married his ho’ and turned square, and is now working to support his wife and daughter as a telemarketer.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”