MOVIE REVIEW | American Pimp (1999)


“They think I could of did a whole bunch of intelligent things with my brain other than try to send these bitches, but this is what I chose to do.”

Documentaries about likeable people are entertaining enough.  But for some reason, I find documentaries about unlikeable people a lot more fascinating.  There’s something about dicks, assholes and evil pricks that makes me hate-watch them with more interest than some awesome person who’s changing the world for the better, or has overcome some terrible adversity.  With American Pimp, I got a strange combination of both.

A series of strikingly open interviews with pimps from all over the country, American Pimp  introduces us to cavalcade of colourful characters, with awesome names like Too $hort, Rosebudd and The Bishop Don Magic Juan.  They tell stories of how they came to be in the pimp game, how they manage the stables of prostitutes and how the world of these people works.  To say they’re manipulative, abusive, violent and misogynistic doesn’t even come close to describing their attitude towards women.

Yet, at the same time, these are some charismatic, watchable, funny, even charming guys.  They can spin a yarn, they can command a room, they grab attention immediately and know how to keep it.  So while they are basically horrible, horrible men, it’s impossible not to like them on some level.  Which I guess is a personality trait or skill that they need to make it in their line of work.

They have to charm women into working for them, they have to convince these women that they’re protecting them, they have to make themselves appear like good men with good intentions.  All while exploiting these women to satisfy their own greed.

There’s one central interviewee who’s out of the pimp trade these days, married one of his whores and started a family.  Somehow, I found that the most depressing part of American Pimp.  I don’t think I liked seeing this dude get a happy ending.  For 90 minutes, I’d been entertained by these guys, but I still hated them.  So I’m not sure what a satisfying ending would have been.  I guess that’s one of the real limitations of making a documentary.  Real life doesn’t always have a satisfying ending.

American Pimp
Directed By – Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes

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