directors Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
The Hughes brothers were on a roll in the 1990’s. After their breakthrough Menace II Society (1993) and their follow-up Dead Presidents (1995), they shifted gears and shot this documentary, American Pimp, exploring the culture and lifestyle popularized in many Blaxploitation films and drawn from street culture and reality.
The film is mostly interviews with a number of colorful characters, mostly retired pimps, some legendary, some still working, reflecting on the style and meaning of the role, the integrity of what they did, the flashy styles they wore. And that is the film’s greatest strength, the interviewees are at great ease, weaving their stories and recollections, open and comfortable.
The Hughes brothers don’t at all challenge their subjects, and intercutting the interviews with flashes of some classic blaxploitation flicks, glorify and adore the images. The men speak of integrity that they have, and they may well have it, that ethics exist in the subculture and these men in particular might be the best ideals of it.
But it’s kind of impossible to address pimping and not the inherently predatory nature of the role, the exploitation of women, and the real violence and cruelty doled out in the lives of pimps and prostitutes, the inherent sexism of the culture.
So, come for the stories and the characters. Don’t look for something more profound.