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on April 16, 2003
So here it is, the movie �debut� of Eminem, the man once referred to by President Bush as 'the most dangerous threat to American children since polio'. Directed by Curtis Hanson (previously responsible for the excellent LA Confidential), Marshall Mathers III stars as Jimmy �B. Rabbit� Smith, a wannabe rapper struggling to break of a life of poverty on the wrong side of Detroit�s 8 Mile Road.
8 Mile opens with B. Rabbit about to go on stage to take part in an open mic rap contest at a rap venue called �The Shelter�. Plagued by nerves, he throws up in the bathroom and down his sweater before going on stage, where in front of a cynical and somewhat hostile back audience he completely dries up in an embarrassing case of stage fright. Homeless and car-less after splitting up with his �pregnant� girlfriend he has to return to his mother�s trailer home, whereupon he disturbs his mother (Kim Basinger) mid-coital with her younger lover Greg. As if that is not embarrassing enough his mother later confides to a horrified Rabbit that she is having problems with her sex life because Greg wont go down on her.
Almost everything in 8 Mile suggests that this is less than fiction and whilst perhaps not quite autobiographical it is certainly quasi-autobiographical. Much like a pre-superstardom Eminem, his character Jimmy has an absentee father, he hangs around with a multiracial crew and takes part in rapping competitions. Jimmy�s mother is a drunken fool neglecting her four-year old daughter, whilst living with a no-good loser virtually the same age as her son, in a squalid trailer. Jimmy�s crew dream of becoming rap stars and see their rhyming skills as being their best hope of getting out of the inner city deprivation and urban wasteland of America�s famous motor city. However, whilst dreaming of a way out of the urban wasteland and poverty that surrounds him Rabbit still has to work a day job in a steel pressing plant where his boss gives him a hard time for his time-keeping and attitude.
Eminem is not just the most famous rapper in America, he is quite simply the biggest star on the planet. In the superstardom stakes he is, if you will pardon the comparison, the new Michael Jackson (without the chimp, the plastic surgery, the dance moves and with a great deal more profanity). Of course 8 Mile isn't actually Eminem�s film debut; that was in The Wash, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg's ill-conceived remake of the 70�s flick �Car Wash�, where he made a cameo appearance as a phone-stalker psycho. As The Wash proved, rap artists don�t necessarily make great actors or great films (remember Vanilla Ice in the cringeworthy Cold As Ice anyone?) and with the exception of Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur, very few have actually made the transition from music to movies as well as this.
Perhaps not an obviously heroic figure Eminem's public persona has been somewhat modified in his role as Jimmy �Rabbit� Smith. Jimmy�s actions are anti-homophobic (he comes to the defence of one of his gay colleagues), he is positively passive (rather than verbally violent) to all the women in his life regardless of how much they wrong him. Indeed the movie opens with Rabbit having given his car and home away to his ex-girlfriend who claims to be pregnant and he returns to his mom�s trailer where he raps an improvised lullaby to his little sister. For much of the movie, Rabbit is a brooding somewhat introverted character. He travels to his work on the bus, headphones on, hooded and scribbling down new ideas for lyrics. However the movie and Eminem both come alive during the rap battles, which are central to the plot, where rival rappers verbally tear each other limb from limb in front of a hostile crowd. Taunting Rabbit with cries of �Elvis� and comments about his mother and their trailer park home, this is Eminem in his equivalent of Rocky�s boxing ring or General Maximus Decimus Meridus�s coliseum. Rabbit must overcome his own fears and self-doubt in order to emerge triumphant.
Out-with this critics will say that Director Curtis Hanson (The Wonder Boys) has deliberately restricted Eminem to a range of acting, which does not require much flexing of thespian muscle. However, this is something of a moot point because it works. Eminem looks good. It is a credible and understated performance and 8 Mile is an entertaining and uplifting movie, which showcases his great talent. As always, Curtis Hanson�s direction is flawless and he has surrounded Slim Shady with an excellent supporting cast. In particular, Mekhi Phifer (ER) as Rabbit�s best buddy �Future�, Brittany Murphy (Don�t Say A Word) as would be trashy new girlfriend Alex, Evan Jones as the dopey Cheddar Bob and Kim Basinger are all excellent.
Perhaps not the most original story ever told, 8 Mile has been compared to Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and A Star Is Born. However, it is refreshing to see that 8 Mile is free of a traditional Hollywood ending and instead finishes on a more realistic note with an important message; Dreams cannot be realised if all you do is dream. Hard work and perseverance are the keys to success and the only person you can totally rely upon is yourself.
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on October 29, 2003
I can save two hours of your life: 8Mile is the exact same movie as The Karate Kid.
Eminem is Daniel LaRusso. Mekhi Phifer is Mr. Miyagi. Brittany Murphy is Ali Mills (the love interest). And all the mean Detroit rappers are the Cobra Kai's.
The movie comes to climax as the reluctant warrior (Daniel-San/Eminem) battles at a open-mic "tournament." Just when you thought your wounded hero was down for the count he delivers a crushing blow that defeats the evil bully rappers.
This movie isn't horrible - but it ain't great either. Curtis Hanson did a much better job on LA Confidential.
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on February 23, 2003
I am here to debunk the myth that Eminem's music, and now his movie, are works solely targeted to- and appreciated by- people who are uneducated, misogynistic, "too young" to know any better, or otherwise have something "wrong" with them. This college graduate personally found this movie to be compelling, realistic, and unexpectedly humorous.
The stunningly grim backdrop of urban blight within Detroit sets the mood for a story of a young man with very little going for him besides his talent as a rapper. Battling the demons of poverty, violence, a dysfunctional family, and above all a lack of self-confidence about going on stage, Eminem's character (Jimmy Smith Jr.) refuses to give up. Determined to find a better life someday, he draws upon inspiration from friends, his love for his baby sister, and a beautiful stranger (played by Brittany Murphy). Jimmy finds not only the confidence he needs, but also a sense of responsibility and the realization that to make it, one has to do it themselves. But the victory is bittersweet, because even though he climbs to the top of the local hip-hop scene, he still has much farther to go.
Eminem demonstrates not only that he is a far better actor than most of the modern musicians-turned-actors out there; he has a quick wit and a mind for humor and wordplay. Much like several of his songs, this movie contains many moments of verbal jousting, and quick rhymes and humor that will leave you laughing as well as thinking.
The controversy surrounding this movie has very little to do with the film's merits itself, and very much to do with Eminem's negative public image and the sometimes violent lyrics on his albums. With another actor in the lead, there would undoubtedly be far fewer negative reviews, as many of them seem to draw their substance not from the movie itself but from skeptics taking an opportunity to insult Eminem, his reputation, and his fans.
Clearly, the main appeal of the movie and the story it tells is to people who already have an appreciation for rap and hip-hop. But anyone who goes in with an open mind will enjoy this gritty film about a young man struggling to get ahead, and life in an often-misunderstood world.
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on March 20, 2003
'8 Mile' follows a week in the life of amateur-rapper Rabbit (aka Jimmy Smith), who is constantly oppressed by his peers, his friends, his girlfriend(s), his family (ahem, mother) and his lifestyle in general. The movie opens with Rabbit (Eminem) performing at a weekly rap-battle, held by his best friend Future (Mekhi Phifer). He is promoted to be a genius, but instead ends up choking and being booed offstage. It is from here that we follow Rabbit and his friends (all part of a rap group by the name of The 313) through a typical week which consists of car repairs, shooting paintballs at police cars and dreaming about the future. Rabbit breaks up with his girlfriend, deals with his often indisposed mother, takes care of his neglected baby sister and tries to put together a demo in order to get out of poverty and move on to finer things in life. The movie is pretty predictable; obviously in the end Rabbit wins (although he settles for a rather modest form of fame) and things end on a relatively upbeat note. However, the movie is more than just the plot. Everything goes together so well. From the actors' on-screen chemistry, to the music, and all the way to those little "I've been there before" plot points, it all works. It's simplicity is stunning. Eminem gives a very moving performance, and when you watch him in character, you forget that he is the biggest rapper on the planet. There are some things about this movie that feel a little uneven; a lot of the relationships are underdeveloped, you never really felt the supposed connection (or resentment) between Rabbit and his mother, and in the end, Rabbit really didn't hate Alex (Brittany Murphy) as much as any normal man would. Altogether, this movie will not only please Eminem fans, but anyone who is looking for an inspirational and honest film.
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on July 4, 2003
We knew that Marshall Mathers III (a.k.a. Eminem) was a rap superstar with a lot of creativity for lyrics and rhymes, but when we heard that he was going to make an acting debut, everybody taught that he was a musician, not an actor...Boy, we all were very wrong.
In "8 Mile", not only he displays his hip-hop talents, but he also makes clear that he is a complete artist with great acting skills.
"8 Mile" is a semi-biographical movie located in the lower-class Detroit; Jimmy "B-Rabbit" and his friends are hip-hop aficionados that have a dream: someday they will be the next big thing in the hip-hop world; but Jimmy's friends know that his buddy "B-Rabbit" is the best rapper around; he just needs to display his talents in some way....
So in "8 Mile" we watch B-Rabbit and his fiends competing against other rappers, against the lack of money, against the discrimination that Rabbit suffers because he is a white boy in the hip-hop world, and many other difficulties in his road to the fame.
Director Curtis Hanson manages to get pretty good performances from everybody in the cast, the pace of the story is very good also, Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography is stellar, and the music is just great. The extras in the DVD are entertaining, specially the rap battles that doesn't appear in the movie.
This is the kind of movie that is enjoyable not only for Eminem or hip-hop fans, but it can be enjoyed by everyone...hell, even my parents liked "8 Mile"....
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on May 11, 2003
I have to admit I didn't even know who Eminem was until "The Marshall Mathers LP" came out in the summer of 2000. When I first heard "The Real Slim Shady" on the radio that summer, I honestly thought it was some kind of practical joke. Could anyone's voice really be that nasal?
Of course, the joke was on me. The joke's on everyone when it comes to Eminem. The morning that "8 Mile" came out, I heard two radio hosts in New York City (a right-wing social crusader, and a left-wing civil rights lawyer) debating Eminem. One host decried Eminem, while the other lauded him, and it's not hard to figure out which host took which side. Obviously, once I heard the debate phrased in those terms, I simply had to go see the film.
"8 Mile" is well worth owning on DVD -- if nothing else, for those of us less than fluent in hip-hop, the English subtitles make the movie remarkably easier to understand. In the theater, the film was inspirational, without being hokey. It stands up to repeated viewings, which is the mark of a truly good film. Director Curtis Hanson has made increasingly solid movies throughout his career (his early "The Little Dragons" was banned to the purgatory of monthly airings on the Lifetime Network in the late '80s; now he's an Oscar winner) and in "8 Mile" he pushes all the right buttons without ever producing anything phony.
The magic element that makes "8 Mile" hang together is Eminem... of course. Rabbit's an anti-hero, who picks a fight every ten minutes and loses most of them. His film romance (with Brittany Murphy) is limited to an erotic encounter in an auto-stamping factory; the would-be couple's romantic gesture involves the middle finger. If you're expecting "8 Mile" to conclude with a triumphant record deal and a marriage proposal, you're in the wrong theater.
The supporting cast in "8" mile is also notable. Mekhi Phifer, who first came to my attention with an explosive recurring role on the penultimate season of "Homicide", is outstanding as Rabbit's hip-hop mentor and would-be sponsor. Someone named Evan Jones is quite likeable as "Cheddar Bob", quite possibly the dumbest sidekick to appear in a movie since Steve Buscemi in "The Big Lebowski". Sample exchange: "I need some privacy." "Can I come with you?". The third notable character is Detroit itself. Here's one of the bleakest movie landscapes ever, and it's all filmed "entirely on location in the 313", as the film's credits tell us.
The extras are a little weak. The "making of" featurette runs just 10 minutes and doesn't seem to involve any original contribution by Eminem himself. Well done, however, is the music soundtrack options, which all you to jump directly to the scene in the movie in which a particular song appears. You can also watch the film's excellent freestyle battles this way.
The finest feature on the disc is a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the freestyle battles. Here we see the "American Idol"-style selection process of four extras who'll get to actually battle Eminem in the movie. The feature is all the more riveting for the fact that this sequence didn't make the final cut. This feature is the closest that the "8 Mile" DVD comes to actually penetrating Eminem's barriers and getting a look at the real man himself.
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on May 20, 2003
8 Mile isn't your typical rapper movie by any lengths. It has established actors with a terrific director, and the big bonus is that the rapper himself can actually act.
Eminem proves to the whole world that he isn't a one dimensional celebrity and can hold his own with the best of them (i.e. Kim Basinger). Does he deserve an Oscar, though? Absolutely not, not even close. But, in an increasingly popular trend where music stars cross over into the movie industry, he topples them all. This isn't unprecedented with the likes of Madonna making the switch, but it's always intriguing and quite surprising when a rapper can make the transition so easily and smoothly.
There are some Hollywoodish qualities in the movie, and that just makes it interesting. What movie has ever been made that the "based on" storyline isn't tweaked here and there to make it an interesting movie?
8 Mile didn't jump down any levels on the side stories, like so many movies in this genre do. There wasn't a point in the movie that I felt bored or turned off, which is what one would expect from a movie with Eminem cast as the lead.
By the end of the movie, I felt a genuine sympathy for Rabbit and wanted nothing more than to see him prevail against all odds. That's the mark of good directing and even more important, terrific acting. 4 Stars
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on August 24, 2003
Rap music, popular for a couple of decades now, has taken a lot of heat lately, primarily due to it being interpreted as "gangsta" rap, and held responsible for breakdown in social order. The group labeled as "right-wing conservatives", however inaccurate this term may be, has been quoted as being against the "phenomenon of rap music", for the reason that such music instills debauchery, violence, lack of ambition, and disrespect for family values.
I viewed this film while on vacation, and the splurges in free time that accompany such endeavors instigate that new things be tried: that one entertain oneself with the unusual. The persons with me on the vacation were curious as to the content of the movie, and so with popcorn, beer, and an open mind, we sat down on a not-so-comfortable couch and concentrated our attention to what some have called "proof" of the decline of U.S. culture.
What we viewed was interesting, and not what we expected. But art has the habit of bringing you out of equilibrium, and this piece of art, this movie, was a pretty strong perturbation. What was observed was a character with a strong work ethic: working by day, rapping by night. A character with deep concern with his baby sister's care and well-being. A character whose ambition to break from his routine and find something better bordered on obsession. A character who insisted on being genuine, on being honest with himself, and not masking your origins or upbringing.
[Are these not "family values"? Will Western civilization decay because of the practice of values like these?]
Was he a "perfect" character? Well, no: he broke with his girlfriend when learning (or making the assumption) she was pregnant. He was violent at times, and followed the crowd without question at one point (the burning of the vacant house). He let himself be intimidated (at first) by an audience.
This character clearly believed in the value of a focused life: his extreme note-taking for his eventual musical rap confrontations. A random walk through life was not going to get him where he wanted to be. Playing bingo, like his mother, and not planning...not working, was not the way.
The harsh language in the rap confrontations is balanced by its inventiveness, its creativity. It is actually very fun. One can get intoxicated with its free play. All discovery originates this way: the formalities come later, and these are then etched in stone, with later generations to question and possibly rebel against.
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on April 5, 2003
When I first saw the trailers for this movie last summer, I felt my eyes roll back into my skull. I didn't see how anyone over the age of 12 would be able to sit through what I assumed would be a two hour music video. But after I heard nothing but good stuff about this movie when it came out, I decided to give the dvd a shot.
It's not a glorified music video at all. The story is your basic poor kid with talent struggling to make it tale. Think "Rocky" with a white rapper instead of boxer. It is well told, and never drags.
Eminem's acting was good, although a lot of that can be attributed to him basically playing himself. But he doesn't hog the screen and turn this into a vanity piece. Rather, he steps back and lets the other actors drive the movie. Mekhi Phifer(I'm sure I just missspelled his name)does a great job as his best friend. Especially in the scene where he gets Eminem to improvise a rap to "Sweet Home Alabama" in order to forget his crappy life or at least laugh at it.
That scene seems to sum up the message of this movie. Your life might suck, but you're only a loser if you give up.
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on March 22, 2003
The movie starts off beautifully. Rabit (Eminem) is in a restroom getting ready to enter a freestyle battle. He has on headphones blasting "Mobb Deep's" "Shook One's Pt II" I'm not a big Mobb fan, but that song is nice, the beat pure fire to freestyle over. The song makes a nice intro, to an overall decent movie. Better then decent, if you consider this is Em's first attempt at real acting. The cast fits well here. My favorite support character is "Cheddar Bob" he seems to be a bit slow mentally. He add's some really funny moments with a few of his lines. It's especially funny when the rest of his crew is bad mouthing "Free World" under their breaths, and Cheddar blurts it out, starting a near riot between the rival clicks. He is the out of place man in their crew "313" The rest of the crew besides "Cheddar" are supposed to be emcees too, but you never really get to see it, except for a moment in a parking lot scene. I'm a long time Em fan, but even those who aren't, pretty much know the basics of the movie. The story is well told, and well acted. I would have liked for it to have had more "battle" scenes. But they had to make the movie where it could appeal to everyone I suppose. I also find it hard to believe Kim Basinger as a trailer park trash mom. But she a remarkable job here. The friction between Rabbit and his mom and her boyfriend. Who just happens to be one of Rabbits old school mate, is very belivable. Rabbit doesn't like him, and especially doesn't like the fact his mother is with a man who is his age. The movie does however, drag at points. There are some shots of drug usage, and sex (but no visable nudity) and of course a bunch of explicits. But it's not would I would consider a bad movie. The drug use, and the sex aren't displayed in a way where they're being promoted. They are just a part of the story.
Could this movie have been better? Of course, but show me one that couldn't. Em does a wonderful job playing Jimmy "Rabbit" even if this is loosely based on his life. He still did a fine job "acting" And true to the real man, the majority of emotion he displays is anger and hatred. The scenes with him and his little sister "Lilly" though, are very touching. Again, they mimic his relationship with his daughter "Halley" showing, that while he has issues, he really isn't that bad of a guy. I especially found the one's where he was fighting with his mom boyfriend. And afterwards saw his sis in the corner frighted to have a very real feel to them. He didn't want her exposed to anything bad, and did whatever he could to keep her away from harm and having to witniss the negative side of life. With how it ended, I could see a sequal. I'm sure the studio is all for the idea. But somehow, I doubt that Em is going to be up for it. He didn't do this movie for the money, and he didn't do it because he wanted to be an actor. He did it because it was a role he related to, and in an indirect way it told his life story of growing up on "8 mile" road in Detriot. Even if you don't like hip-hop music, I suggest you give this movie a try. It has very little actual rapping in it.
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