DIFF Review: Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp


Director:Jorge Hinojosa

Cast:Betty Beck, Ice-T, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Bill Duke, Quincy Jones, Bishop Don Magic Juan

Running Time:89.00


If it weren't for Robert Beck, who went by the name Iceberg Slim during his days as a pimp, it's safe to say there would be no rappers. A master storyteller, unbelievably stylish, and fascinating, Iceberg was the epitome of swagger, long before bros started co-opting that term and shortening it to "swag." 

This documentary, directed by Ice-T's long-time manager, gives a fairly complete picture of an influential man most of us know nothing about. Despite his criminal life, Iceberg is held in high regard by many in the African-American community, with some in academia even going so far as to mention him in the same breath as Alex Haley (Roots) and Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man). His first book, Pimp: The Story of My Life, sold millions of copies. His next book, a novel based on a man he met in prison, was called Trick Baby. It eventually became a hit movie for Universal. 

But before he achieved modest success (modest only because his publisher screwed him out of royalties), Iceberg had to deal with an abusive babysitter, a deceitful mother, several stints in jail, and a serious heroin habit. He ended up turning it all into harrowing, verbose stories that he hoped would de-glamorize the allure of the pimp but ended up making it seem more desirable.

The film should have spent more time examining this contradiction. Unfortunately, like most documentaries about one iconic figure, the director and interviewees so revere the subject they miss making a larger connection or grander point. 

Still, bolstered by a great soundtrack and a wide swath of interview subjects (from professors to rappers to Iceberg's hilarious ex-wife Betty), Iceberg Slim is an illuminating and entertaining documentary.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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