Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes, Rated R
Featuring: Ice T, Quincy Jones, Betty Beck, Snoop Dogg, Bill Duke
Directed by Jorge Hinojosa (feature-film debut)
There's no denying that the subject of the documentary, Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp (available today on VOD), is a fascinating one. The famous pimp, Iceberg Slim - also known as Robert Beck - turned from his controversial street life and became a renowned author. His 1967 autobiographical novel, "Pimp: The Story of My Life," , made him a legend and opened up the eyes of mainstream society to the truths of pimping.
In the documentary, we hear from those who were influenced by Iceberg, from Ice-T and Ice Cube (both who adopted the "Ice" in their names in homage to him) as well as several of his family members and those who knew him best. We also hear from Iceberg himself, in a very candid interview that obviously must have taken place prior to his death in 1992 (complications from diabetes).
As a biographical documentary, this film is captivating. Iceberg is exactly the kind of guy - who lead the appropriately exciting life-style - worthy of being a documentary centerpiece. But this film makes no arguments against his iconic status. Though it delves into his shady past, Iceberg comes out looking heroic, which to some, he is.
If you're not sure what a pimp does, how to get into the business, or why one aspires to be a pimp, this documentary is for you. You'll also learn pimp terminology like a "stable" (the word used to describe the women under a pimps command) and "bottom bitch" (the woman closest to the pimp whom he reserves for himself).
You'll also hear about how Iceberg made the transition from lucrative pimp to successful author. What is lost in the documentary is exactly why his pimping is glorified.
Some, for example, may find it nice to know that Iceberg had a wife and children, kept outside of his daily pimping lifestyle. In the film, this is painted to show that Iceberg was a nice enough guy, a family man with the decency to lead a normal life, if only on the side. But to me, this only leads me to believe he was even more of a sociopath...a fact that the film doesn't ponder, because it is too busy practicing hero worship.
Was Iceberg an interesting man? Absolutely. Is his story compelling? No doubt. Is there something wrong with a society who idolizes a man who kept women in a "stable," manipulated them physically and emotionally and who operated outside of the law? Probably.
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp does paint a portrait, but one that only uses the brightest of colors to show a man that has chosen the most abhorrent of occupations. His importance and his contributions to American literature are clear. What is less clear is why this man is looked up to as such a grandiose role model. It would have been a great subject for a documentary.
Looking for a specific movie or review?