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Controversial rapper Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) makes his big screen debut with 8 MILE, a bracing drama directed by the increasingly audacious Curtis Hanson. Set in 1995 in the bleak, urban battle zone of Detroit, the film follows the struggles of a young man who is desperate to make a better life for himself. Jimmy Smith, Jr., better known as Rabbit, is destined for a life of squalor. Living in a cramped trailer with his deadbeat mom (Kim Basinger), Rabbit works in a factory to make ends meet. His only outlet is hip-hop. Possessing a talent for freestyle rapping, Rabbit still hasn't managed to unleash his true potential. But his best friend, Future (Mekhi Phifer), is determined to make that happen. Future forces Rabbit to enter a freestyle battle that he blew the week before, giving him another chance at redemption. Hanson's stellar portrait of lower-class urban disillusionment, shot with uncompromisingly gritty realism by Rodrigo Prieto, proves that the issue is no longer about race, it's about money. Eminem delivers a bold performance as the troubled youngster who is still trying to find his place in a harsh, cruel world.
Ah, a movie starring a music star, never something that invties feelings of joy and anticipation (Glitter, anyone?). What we have here, however, is not a badly written, directed and acted pop song vehicle. Instead, 8 Mile is an extremely well written, well directed and well acted (yes, well acted) piece of film-making.
Like him or loathe him, his lyrics or whatever, Eminem is an undeniable presence in today's world, no matter what people like Tipper Gore in the US would have you think. He is also a good actor, at least when he is not required to stretch himself. Here he plays moody, resentful ands angry, all parts of his natural personality as it appears in public. I mean, this is man who wrote 'Stan'. But he can act, that is a fact. His persona has been watered down for the movie (or beefed up for Slim Shady, whichever you prefer). Here he is not homophobic (he even defends a gay man in a rap sparring battle at work), he is not a gangster (he gets beaten up by them), he is, despite his group of friends, pretty alone. He is prone to bursts of random and ferocious violence and temper tantrums. Okay, so you still sometimes see him as a rap star with somewhat objectionable views rather than the character he plays, but that's not the point. Overall, Jimmy Smith Jnr. is a pretty well drawn character, definitely not 100% likeable, but not wholly unsympathetic either.
After he chokes in the opening scene of the movie, a rap battle where rappers spar with each other, producing ingenious slices of rhyme, he is booed and ridiculed by all but his four friends and Alex (Brittany Murphy), a girl he meets. This is not a totally happy movie, it deals with a bleak landscape and bleaker lives, people stuck where they are because they can't bring themselves to leave, caught in a cycle of violence. That said, it provides a superb climax, when Jimmy (Eminem) enters a rap battle again in order to win out over the gang who have abused and beaten him. Here Eminem's verbal skills come into their own, and come the final, he owns the crowd. To the reviewer who took the moral high ground and said that this movie should never be compared to 'Rocky', due to the immoral nature of it's star, why is a man stringing together rhymes to overcome adversity worse than a man who is paid to beat another man into a pulp? The character Jimmy goes after in the final battle is ridiculed for reasons this reviewer saw as commendable, but the character is a violent, murderous bully who was threatening to kill Jimmy earlier in the movie, so why stand up for him? This is a movie about the underdog, and it has the likes of Rocky on the ropes from the word go.
You may not like Marshall Mathers III and his views on race sexuality and women, but for now, that's not the point. Yes, the movie is violent and full of swearing, but so are Scorsese movies, and he's hailed as a genius. Yes, the female characters are not held up as role models for young girls, but Alex does at least show her support and affection for Jimmy in spite of what happens. To conclude, you should watch 8 Mile, not because it's got Eminem in it, but because it is a very good movie.
When I first heard that Curtis Hanson, the director of LA CONFIDENTIAL, was set to direct a movie semi-based around the life of white rapper Eminem my first reaction was what? That's weird! I didn't think it was bad but it just seemed very strange and like the last thing Hanson would get his big foot stuck in. I'm not a big fan of rap anymore but I was growing up. However, I do like Eminem. Love him or hate him his talent is evident. In my lifetime I believe that I have seen three great talents in rap and they are Tupac, Biggie and Eminem. Still, I couldn't believe that a director of Hanson's caliber would direct an Eminem movie. I couldn't but now I can. 8 MILE is kind of like ROCKY with freestyle battles instead of boxing. It's an underdog story. I thought from the trailer that I would know somewhat how the film would play out but I was wrong. I didn't. The film really avoids pretension and cliché. Hanson effectively guides us through Detroit's rap underground, a place that's a foreign land too most.
Now, I don't expect everyone to love 8 MILE, but I think there are a lot of people out there who'd be surprised if they give the film a shot. I know there's a lot of anti-Eminem people out there and rightly so. I can see why you would hate the man but I don't. However, love him or hate him he delivers a heart felt performance here. The story, like I said above, is an underdog story. The relationship between Rabbit (Eminem) and his little sister gives a perfect balance to his wild nightlife, his crappy day job and his constant battles with his mom (Kim Basinger) and her boyfriend.
As I finish up here I'll say that 8 MILE isn't the best film of all time but it is very, very good. I was entertained throughout the entire film. It IS one of the best films I've see this year and that is a major accomplishment in a year that I consider to have many great films (see SIGNS, THE FOUR FEATHERS, and ROAD TO PERDITION). Well, I gotta go cause `I've been at this plant so long I'm a plant. Look at my boots their startin' to grow roots!' See the movie, you'll get it.
8 Mile tells the story of a white kid on the wrong side of the tracks living in Detroit with a dead end job and a trailer park mom. Deep inside, he aspires to break free from the chains of the reality of his life through the poetry and passion and rawness of rap; the one place he can possibly gain a feeling of purpose and hear his own voice. Obviously, it's no big secret that this storyline runs very parallel to that of of Eminem's own roots and his own aspirations. Where fiction and reality collide is blurred and that works for the picture. First off, I think Curtis Hanson did a great job rebuilding that world and protecting his novice lead. He understood the material and I was drawn in to the world that he recreated. Also, the cinematography widely lends itself towards upping the ante of the picture and making you feel the authenticity of a world and a place where many of us have never traveled nor never will. As for Eminem himself, at first I found him a little stoic, but given the fact that this guy has never acted before, regardless of how 'autobiographical' the material may be, I thought he did a decent job in front of the camera. Hanson was wise to protect his lead with awesome supporting work from Mekhi Phifer and pretty much everyone else that portrays his friends and peers in the film. Eminem obviously was a little green and surrounding him with these actors gave the movie and Eminem's journey more credence. Brittany Murphy was also very good, but I found her character to be a bit expedient. She definitely was not used to her full potential and I felt that if they had used her relationship with Rabbit to a larger or deeper extent, it only would have lent more to the film. One of the scenes I was most impressed with was the sex scene between Murphy and Eminem. Gone were the Hollywood antics of glossing it up or ghetto fabulous and I felt that Hanson captured something that was fascinating, uncomfortable and realistic that I haven't seen in a Hollywood film before.
a must have if you love eminem
This movie presents a hardcore, real-life account that will open your eyes to the prices that are paid for fame.
Even if you don't care for Marshall Mathers' (a.k.a. Eminem) music, his break-through movie qualifies as one of the best dramatic, true-to-life flicks you'll see. It's especially eye-opening for those of us who don't live near a metropolis and never really see people living and dealing with poverty like the main character, Jimmy "Rabbitt", does in this movie. Other than being a darn good drama, this movie serves as a reminder as to just how hard some people have to work to make it in this world.
Jimmy Smith has been born and raised in a poor lifestyle in inner-city Detroit. He battles with his dependent mother, her young, hot-headed boyfriend, his job, and his friends, all while aspiring to be a famous white rapper in a predominately black atmosphere. Along the way to his dreamed stardom, he faces problems with girls and friends, strong competition, and his own self-confidence problems. Because this movie mirrors the life of it's main actor, Eminem, the viewer has the opportunity to be touched by the real life account in a way that few other movies presents.
Buy or see this movie if you want to be entertained by a dramatic, true to life account of one of the most controversial rappers. But you may want to think twice if profanity bothers you.