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American Pimp: DVD Review
Posted by O. R. Polk, Jr. on May 6, 2002, 19:38

American Pimp

Directed by Allen & Albert Hughes

Released by MGM Home Entertainment

Rated R, 1 hour 17 min.

“Any man can control a woman’s body. The trick is to control her mind.” - The Mack, 1973

And believe me, pimps DO control the minds (and bodies) of the women they employ. Some pimps learned “the game” from older macks. Hell, if you let them tell it, they can gain that same control over ANY women if given enough time: “I’m the biggest pimp I know, so I can turn out anybody; I don’t give a fuck who it is. ANYBODY. Oh, your momma going, she’s going. Fo sho. If she come fuckin’ wit me, I’m sendin’ her!”, laughs Las Vegas’ Payroll. Damn.

Maybe that’s why the word “pimp” to most of those in the younger generations carries such positive connotations with it. Who wouldn’t want to pull the Jedi mind trick on any given woman of their choice? It’s not uncommon to find kids nowadays calling a ladies’ man a “pimp” or a “mack”. The word “pimp” has taken on such a life of its own that we, as a society, have forgotten what a pimp is really about and really does. Leave it to the directors of Menace II Society and Dead Presidents to give us a surprisingly humorous and entertaining wake up call. Maybe your parents are old enough to know how cold-hearted and cruel a pimp can really be. They may tell you that pimps are crooks, killers and thieves. C-Note from San Francisco rebuts: “I ain’t never stole nothing in my life. I don’t steal nothing but a bitch’s mind.” After getting a good look at some of the women in this movie, I don’t doubt that their minds have been “stolen” one bit.


Apparently fed up with Hollywood’s politics and red tape, the Hughes brothers offer up American Pimp, a self-financed documentary featuring funny, revealing interviews with a myriad of colorful and charismatic macks from just about every major city in the US. One problem that most have with American Pimp upon first viewing it, is that it is incredibly one-sided. When this documentary was first released in 1997, there were a ton of other documentaries out there dealing with the same subject matter. Where all of these excelled, however, was showing all sides of the world’s oldest profession: the plights of the johns, the street walkers and the pimps equally. American Pimp does no such thing. It talks to about three or four working girls during the feature, but none of them are challenged with any in-depth questions nor a decent amount of screen time to answer. They don’t talk to any “tricks” at all. The Hughes Brothers are here to celebrate (and perhaps unintentionally glamorize) the American pimp. (all black, with the exception of the only legal pimp in the film who happens to be white, the owner of Nevada’s Moonlight Bunny Ranch) Any film’s vision is going to be skewed in the direction of those who are making it and American Pimp is no exception. It’s quite obvious that the Hughes Brothers grew up admiring and idolizing these fast-talking street entrepreneurs.


American Pimp is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital Stereo with an additional 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack in Spanish. The only special feature included is a television show taping of Independent Focus on IFC, which is like Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton on Bravo. Listening to the Hughes brothers talk about this project and projects past give a little insight on what it’s like to be a minority filmmaker in Hollywood and some of the obstacles that they had to overcome in order for this particular film to see the light of day. They also have some other interesting stories that didn’t make it onto the screen concerning American Pimp.


Who would’ve guessed it? The most entertaining part of American Pimp is…the pimps. It’s painfully obvious they ham it up when the camera is rolling and go out of their way to come off as the world’s biggest and best “player”. But, whether you like or loathe these bullshit artists and master manipulators, one has to admit they are a simply a ball to listen to. Listening to them talk gives you the feeling of sitting around an uncle relating old war stories (albeit extremely frank and explicit ones). One of my favorites, Hollywood’s Rosebudd (“with two d’s for a double-dose of this pimpin’”, he says like he’s said it a million times before with straight face), starts off the movie. (intercut with a clip of Orson Welles from Citizen Kane saying “Rosebud”)

On the money he used to make: “We was checkin’ so much money in Hollywood back in the day, you could actually save your hundreds and spend the rest.” On pimps turning their hookers on to drugs: “A pimp think like this: I wanna get my money first. If you put the bitch on the drugs, the drug man getting the money first. So, you know, a pimp gotta count the money first. So a pimp don’t be [putting his women on drugs].” On how pimps are portrayed in the media: “They have to include that little punk shit to make the pimpin’ look raggedy. Otherwise, they applauding pimping and then they liable to be turning some young bitches out.” If it’s one thing this movie is full of, besides bullshit, it’s funny quotes. Every player in this movie has a mouth like a “machine gun”; fully equipped with old pimp clichés, colloquialisms and a plethora of zippy one-liners.

Another of my favorites, Kenny Red from D.C.: “The other day one of my ho’s asked me for Mother’s Day off…I said ‘bitch, for what?’” Filmmaker: “Does she have a baby?” Kenny Red: “Yeah, she got a baby. But she got a pimp to pay, too.”


Honestly, for anyone interested in the dynamics of “pimpology” or just a student of human nature, American Pimp is a must-see. There was one mack in the movie who explained how young fellas could just read Iceberg Slim’s book, Pimp and see a few movies like Willie Dynamite and successfully pimp for two or three years; just with that little bit of knowledge alone. I don’t know how much actual knowledge American Pimp passes on but it does teach the average “square” a lot about “the game”: the lingo (knocking, tracks, turn-out: Sir Captain of Atlanta, “Any man can kill; any woman can be turned out.”), why pimps dress the way they do (“If you look like a million bucks the more chance you have to attract a million bucks”, says New Orleans’ Gorgeous Dre), the pimp/ho relationship, what a pimp’s job is (financial management, protection, etc), the ho’s responsibilities to the pimp, how much money she makes (a lot) and gets to keep (all pimps agree: “zero”), about the origins of pimps and how today differs from just 30 years ago. And as I mentioned earlier, the Hughes do venture to Las Vegas to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch and visit with working girls who don’t have to walk the streets and seem to have a much easier life than their sisters in other cities. It’s quite the contrast although I can’t say the girls seem much happier even though they say they are. One funny thing about American Pimp is that the women are almost always right next to their “man” when questioned about him. So what else are they going to say: “I wanna leave him, I hate this.”? I doubt it.

While American Pimp is heavy on the pimps and doesn’t offer any solutions to what many consider a problem, it sure makes for an educational and entertaining ride. Pick it up.

O.R. Polk, Jr.
Cynics Rule

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