For all the critical hype surrounding 8 Mile, the film is a variation of the much produced genre of the underdog coming out as a winner at the end Ė the only difference is 8 Mile delves into the hip-hop world in run down Detroit.
Controversial rapper Eminem stars as Jimmy ĎB-Rabbití Smith who works in a Detroit automotive panel pressing plant during the day and dreams of making it big in the rap world. Unfortunately Jimmy, who wants to take on other rappers on a rap showdown held at a local club, suffers from stage fright and is intimidated by the crowds. Only his friend and club MC, Future (Mekhi Phifer) believes that he has the potential to be the best and take on the current champions.
Jimmy also has to deal with his home life, which is no picnic, as after breaking up with his girlfriend, heís forced to move back home into his motherís trailer. His mother Stephanie (Kim Basinger) spends most of her time either with her sleazy boy friend or looking after her young daughter.
Jimmy also has a new love interest in the shape of Alex (Brittany Murphy) who is an aspiring model. With a big rap tournament coming up, Jimmy needs to grow enough confidence to fight back on stage and show everyone that he is much more than what he appears to be.
The biggest problem with 8 Mile is not the story or the new angle of rap, but that it is a retread of films that have been made many times before Ė this isnít new or fresh as itís made out to be. We have the usual rivalries, the usual final confrontation and the usual adversities faced in this genre.
Performances from the cast range widely across the board. Kim Basinger over does it at times and doesnít really have a lot to do. Brittany Murphy is unbelievably annoying and her Ďromanceí with Jimmy is completely puzzling Ė she supports him with encouragement and apart from a few mumbled conversations and one quick shag at work, there is nothing to suggest that these two are romantically linked at all. Jimmy just seems totally uninterested.
Eminem does well as Jimmy but thatís hardly surprising Ė he plays himself Ė anger white rapper from Detroit. Thatís the same as me starring in a film about an Asian, film reviewing, monkey spanker Ė not a great stretch by any acting ability that I may have. Eminem has chosen wisely as this type of character plays to all of his strengths and none of his weaknesses, but the obviousness of this choice is very evident. This might be his first proper film role, but itís already been over hyped Ė and I enjoy his music.
Director Curtis Hanson, the man behind the brilliant LA Confidential, does a good job directing 8 Mile. He manages to capture Detroit with a gritty and downbeat style. A lot of low cam shots and fast editing interspersed with slow shots of Jimmy on a bus for example make it visually entertaining. Itís a shame that almost everyone in the film is an un-likable and uninteresting character that just doesnít do a director as good as him justice. Itís not the cast fault really, but the screen writers.
Over all 8 Mile isnít the breakthrough movie itís hailed to be and doesnít contain the best rapper-turned-actor performance ever either. Ice Cube fared much better in The Three Kings for example. Itís a film where the visuals make it seem a lot better than it actually is and apart from a good finale on stage it has very little to offer in the way of freshness. Perhaps the title refers to the distance that non-Eminem fans should stay away from the film.
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