8 Mile (2002), Cert 18.

Director - Curtis Hanson.

Writer - Scott Silver.

Starring - Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer & Evan Jones.


Premise - Rabbit (Eminem) stays in the 8 Mile trailer park in Detroit with his mother (Kim Basinger) and his little sister. He dreams of becoming a big time rap star and certainly has the skills to do so. Entering rap battles at his local club, Rabbit aims to climb the ladder and cast aside his humble origins so he can fulfill his dreams.

There has been a lot of hoopla in the media about Eminem’s performance in 8 Mile, talk of Oscar nominations and such. Whilst a lot of the praise is justified, the magnitude of Eminem’s achievement needs to be put into perspective. It’s true; he is really good in this film, not amongst the best performances of the year, but still a damn good piece of work. What has to be remembered though is that 8 Mile is more or less the Eminem story; a white guy in Detroit uses his rap skill to make it big in the rap game. Eminem is basically playing himself in this movie and whilst he does play himself really well, you need to ask what he can bring to another role.

Should Eminem quit whilst he’s ahead, having proved that he can cut the mustard in the acting game? Or should he go on and make another movie, with a role that isn’t so close to home, perhaps exposing a weakness that was covered up by the familiar material? It’s a hard decision for Mr. Mathers to make and one that he should think long and hard about. That said, as far as 8 Mile goes, Eminem does the business and will make a few people eat their words. He could have went down the Brittney Spears route and churned out a soulless pile of claptrap, but instead he has hooked up with a lot of talent and produced a good film.

Aside from Eminem you have a cast that, whilst not stuffed with big names, is made up of talented individuals. Brittany Murphy, whom is certainly easy on the eye, parades round in a variety of scandalously short outfits and plays the part of the slutty bitch very well. Mekhi Phifer is an actor who seemingly disappeared after his breakthrough role in Spike Lee’s ‘Clockers’, recently cropping up in TV show ‘ER’. This is a shame as he is an actor that I like a lot, here he plays Rabbit’s best friend and is always a pillar of strength for him, whatever arises.

As far as Kim Basinger goes, I have never been a huge fan of her work. Sure, she was great in ‘LA Confidential’, but aside from maybe ‘Batman’ all of her other movies have ranged from mediocre (Final Analysis) to the downright despicable (The Real McCoy). So, the fact that she is merely ok in 8 Mile comes as little surprise to me. She beavers away, but she is entirely too glamorous to convince as either, trailer park trash or an alcoholic, never mind both.

The highlights of the film are the various ‘battles’. These involve two rappers going against each other for 45 seconds with improvised rap, that invariably revolves around dissing your opponent. Director Curtis Hanson gives these scenes a lot of energy as we see the crowd bouncing up and down and the rappers either moving around frenetically or standing taking the abuse. These scenes though, are too few in the movie, there are a couple of more scenes with Rabbit rapping, but again they are few and far between.

For the most part we are treated to the story of Rabbit’s home life, his efforts to get studio time for a demo and his relationship with Alex (Brittany Murphy). The latter two provide the most interest and actually end up becoming intertwined with a nice pay off. The home life story is the one that drags the film down from my point of view. The family never really convinces and at no point do you feel that these three people are related and have a history together. Ultimately you don’t care what happens to Rabbit at home and wish that they had concentrated more on Rabbit chasing his dream.

It’s strange to think that 8 Mile was made by Curtis Hanson; visually it’s a fairly bland film with nothing aside from the rapping scenes to get excited about. The film doesn’t have the intrigue of ‘LA Confidential’ or the quirkiness of ‘Wonder Boys’. It’s a workmanlike piece of work from Hanson that succeeds in letting the actors do their thing, but at the cost of any real visual spark.

8 Mile is a good film, which contains some good performances. I would say however, that if you hate rap, or Eminem, or both, then 8 Mile really isn’t going to set your world alight. However, if you can stand the material and its star, then you will find 8 Mile to be a pleasing version of the rags to riches story with a nice spin on the usual constraints of that genre. Think ‘Rocky’ with rap music and a different twist in the tail and you won’t go too far wrong.



See 8 Mile if you enjoyed - Rocky, The Karate Kid.

Poster Quote - Better than Cool as Ice.