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  Pimp Bitch better have her money
Year: 2018
Director: Christine Crokos
Stars: Keke Palmer, Edi Gathegi, Vanessa Morgan, Lyrica Okano, Aunjanue Ellis, Haley Ramm, DMX, Paige Searcy, Ashley Blankenship, Paola Lázaro, DeShawn White, Sarah Ellen Stephens, Manny Ureña, Calvin Dutton, Curtis Lyons
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Growing up in the Bronx, Wednesday (Keke Palmer) learned how to survive watching her father (DMX) who was her mother, Gloria May's (Aunjanue Ellis) pimp. When dad died from an overdose Wednesday took over hustling their stable of street-walkers. Money is so tight even Wednesday's childhood friend-turned-cherished-lover Nikki (Haley Ramm) starts turning tricks. Nikki’s success helps Wednesday rise up in the pimp game. Looking to take another step towards the big time Wednesday grows infatuated with voluptuous stripper-cum-call girl Destiny (Vanessa Morgan), but reckons without the latter's possessive and homicidal pimp Kenny Wayne (Edi Gathegi).

The pimp has long been a controversial and problematic icon of urban "cool" both in black and arguably mainstream pop culture. With this film writer-director Christine Crokos takes a stab at subverting a toxic male archetype, transferring that entrenched street hustler ethos into a female lead, and an LGBT character to boot. If Pimp falters by virtue of merely pulling a gender switch on a lot of toxic male ideals (i.e. trust only money, never let a bitch get in your head) rather than challenging them in a way that is truly fresh and subversive it at least crafts a worthy showcase for Keke Palmer. The former child actress, and star of witty Nickelodeon sitcom True Jackson, V.P., etches an authentic performance, hard-edged and de-glamorized, as a complex character.

However, while the film gives viewers a window into Wednesday's survivalist mindset and street-smart philosophy, it is more interested in trotting out the old familiar pimp fantasy tropes than addressing the ethics of trafficking women as sex slaves. Or for that matter exploring how an LGBT character navigates a misogynistic urban hell. The presence of Lee Daniels as executive producer might suggest another po-faced piece of social miserabilism along the lines of Precious (2009) (interestingly, like Daniels' earlier film the heroine’s chief adversary is her own mother). The performances, by a largely female-led cast, are uniformly excellent (Palmer, Aunjanue Ellis, Haley Ramm), but the plot (hustler needs to pull off one last score in order to get out of the game) largely repackages a lot of hoary blaxploitation clichés as authentic social commentary.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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