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USA 2002
Directed by
Curtis Hanson
110 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

8 Mile

Although generally well-regarded critically, 8 Mile is really only another variant on out-of-the ghetto genre which commonly features black and/or white American kids taking up basketball, football, show-biz or what-have-you as their ticket out of urban poverty. There's the dream of the big time, the set-backs and the naysayers, the eventual triumph and the girl along the way. Curtis Hanson’s film follows the template closely the only real difference being that the road out of Nowheresville is rap music. And to like this film you’ve really got to like rap music, and in particular gangsta rap with its violent imagery, unrelenting crudity, homophobia, sexism, and so on.

Real life rapper Eminem plays Jimmy Smith Jr. aka Bunny Rabbit a white rapper living in the dilapidated semi-industrial 8 Mile district also known as Oakland County. His mother (an improbably bootylicious Kim Basinger) lives in a trailer with a no-account boozer (a briefly seen Michael Shannon) while Rabbit works in a factory while honing his rhyming skills in readiness for a rap cutting contest which he expects will be his gateway to the big time.

Although presumably there is some measure of truth to the story written by Scott Silvem the notion of Rabbit fighting his way to the top of the almost entirely black Detroit rap scene (there’s a lot of dropping of names such as Tupac Shakur, Dr Dre, Ice-T) never feels appears particularly convincing as Hanson dutifully follows the dictates of the template including a sidebar story of Rabbit’s involvement with a sexy would-be model (Brittany Murphy) with whom Rabbit shares a common aspiration to get out of the motor city.

Eminem’s fans will, needless to say, enjoy the film particularly towards the end as their hero gets to bust some sick rhymes and the generally curious will get a reasonable idea of the grounds of hip-hop culture but in every other respect the film is an unremarkable addition to a crowded genre.




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