American Pimp

Three "American" documentaries debuted at 1999's Sundance Film Festival; surprisingly, this controversial crowd-pleaser was the last to be released theatrically, after the earnest AMERICAN HOLLOW and the loopy AMERICAN MOVIE. This irreverent walk on the sleazy side started life as background research for a feature film version of Iceberg Slim's Pimp: The...read more

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Three "American" documentaries debuted at 1999's Sundance Film Festival; surprisingly, this controversial crowd-pleaser was the last to be released theatrically, after the earnest AMERICAN HOLLOW and the loopy AMERICAN MOVIE. This irreverent walk on the sleazy side

started life as background research for a feature film version of Iceberg Slim's Pimp: The Story of My Life; when twin filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes brothers couldn't pull that project together, they shouldered a portable camera and sound set up and spent two years interviewing

modern-day procurers. They traveled from Washington, DC, to Hawaii and talked to men with names like Rosebudd, Gorgeous Dre, Filmore Slim and Bishop Don Magic Juan. The documentary footage is intercut with pop culture images of pimps and their ladies, including Max Julian as the archetypal MACK,

Starsky and Hutch's Huggy Bear (Antonio Vargas) and Eddie Murphy as Velvet Jones, flogging his self-help book I Wanna Be a Ho. The result is hugely entertaining, assuming that you can get past the pimps' strutting vulgarity and bedrock contempt for prostitutes and johns alike. To get

a woman to prostitute herself, one says, all you have to do is "steal the bitch's mind." The Hughes brothers clearly came by their ideas about pandering at the movies; you could tell that with your eyes closed from the funk and soul soundtrack that screams " '70s blaxploitation." The surprise

is that the pimps seemed to have learned their player's moves at the movies, too; their wardrobes could cause involuntary seizures in the unprepared. It's funny stuff, though most of the pimps seem like such buffoons it's hard to imagine how they actually make a living. Except, of course, as the

relatively elegant, 70-year-old Filmore Slim observes, "[Sex] is gonna sell when cotton and corn don't." You can't argue with that. — Maitland McDonagh

Cord-Cutting Guide. Credit: Robert Rodriguez / TV Guide

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