8 Mile (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/11/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Extremely enjoyable film, with a winning performance from Eminem - essentially this is the Hip-Hop version of Rocky. In a good way.

8 Mile was a shrewd choice for the London Film Festival this year, as it’s probably one of the most eagerly-awaited films of the next few months, at least if the amount of press coverage it generated is anything to go by. Happily, the film is worth the wait and director Curtis Hanson has done a terrific job of, well, ‘keeping it real’.

The Eminem Myth

The film is loosely based on Eminem’s own success story, although perhaps ‘the Eminem myth’ might be more accurate. He plays Jimmy ‘Rabbit’ Smith Jnr, a white trash factory worker from the proverbial ‘wrong side of the tracks’ – the ‘8 Mile’ of the title refers to a stretch of road that separates Detroit from its white suburbs.

And, having recently done the right thing by his ex-girlfriend (Taryn Manning, who has now played three white trash chicks in a row and is in severe danger of typecasting), Jimmy has moved back into a trailer with his trampy mother (Kim Basinger) and kid sister, who he adores.

As the movie opens, we meet Jimmy preparing to go onstage in a ‘rap-off’ – a contest where two rappers have 45 seconds each to shout rhyming insults at each other and the audience votes on who’s best. We’ve seen Jimmy vomit, so we know he’s nervous, but we’re not prepared for what actually happens when he goes onstage. Sure enough, you spend the entire movie waiting for a rematch and, when it finally comes, it’s electric.

The Moral Of The Story Is…

In the meantime, Jimmy goes about his business, hanging out with his posse (including Mekhi Phifer as ‘Future’, who hosts the rap-offs and Evan Jones as ‘Cheddar Bob’), and falling for Brittany Murphy’s slutty Courtney Love-alike ‘Alex’. There’s also some business about another friend (and rival gang member) trying to help Jimmy with his music connections (the ‘evil’ to Future’s ‘good’), but the message of the movie is that Jimmy learns that he has to succeed on his own.

The acting is extremely good. It remains to be seen if Eminem can play anything other than characters based on himself, but he gives an immensely charismatic performance here and the camera clearly loves him. (If he’s smart, he won’t do a follow-up movie straight away). The support cast are great too, with Basinger probably the highlight – the scene where she embarrasses Jimmy by revealing the origin of his nickname is a classic.

It’s interesting to note the subtle tweaks given to Eminem’s image – for example, he sticks up for a gay colleague at work and he never hits women, unlike the headcase his mother shacks up with (an ex-classmate of Jimmy’s). Similarly, although weedy-looking and downcast most of the time (unless he has a microphone in his hand), he is still allowed to come off best in each of his screen fights, at least when one-on-one.

Occasionally Clumsy But Terrifically Enjoyable

Another notable element is the use of humour – Jimmy himself isn’t all that funny and leaves the wisecracks to his friends. However, in a key scene, we see him come alive when joking with Future - singing ‘I live at home in a trailer’ to the tune of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ - the implication being that Jimmy can only truly be himself through music.

That’s not to say the film is perfect. Some of the lines are cringe-inducingly clumsy (“Hey, let’s go burn down that abandoned house – you know, where that crack-head raped that little girl that could have been your sister”) and there are a few key American references that may go over the heads of British audiences (Leave It To Beaver, anyone?).

Having said that, this is still a terrifically enjoyable film that also has the courage to have a relatively downbeat ending, despite its show-stopping climax immediately beforehand. Most importantly, you don’t have to be a fan of either rap or Eminem to enjoy the film. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

8 Mile (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 17:59

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