8 MILE (M)
Jimmy ‘Rabbit’ Smith Jnr (Enimem) works hard at the factory, but dreams of success in the hip hop clubs of Detroit, where the city’s best rappers battle each other with emotional-abuse rhymes as they compete for the respect of their peers. Together with his friends Future (Mekhi Phifer), Sol (Omar Benson Miller), DJ Iz (De’Angelo Wilson) and Chedder Bob (Evan Jones), they hang out and support each other in this tough neighbourhood. Rabbit moves home with his mum (Kim Basinger) and meets the street-smart Alex (Brittany Murphy) after he leaves his girlfriend. But Rabbit has his sights set on winning the 45 second rappers battle at the Shelter.
Review by Louise Keller:
An engrossing insight into the world of rap and hip hop, 8 Mile takes us deep into the very heart of life of the black community, where the music tells secrets and the stories of those who live there. The title refers to the highway that divides white from black, urban from suburban, and represents the stumbling block or goal to cross. I’m not a great fan of rap music, but Curtis Hanson has succeeded with this gritty and intense portrayal of life, to make us understand why the music is so vital, being the local form of communication and expression.
Rabbit’s skin may be white, but his soul is as black as those of his friends in the neighbourhood: it’s a close bond he shares with them, and there’s an unspoken understanding about the toughness of daily life. He is the outcast, and he is the one who needs to prove that he can rap as well as his peers. We first meet Rabbit in a scungy toilet block, as he practises his rap moves in front of the mirror. But then he throws up and it’s not until he gets onto the stage of The Shelter, the rundown rap club, that it is apparent that he has choked on nerves. This is a tough neighbourhood and the bond that links its inhabitants is strong. Rabbit is a loner and everything he does seems to accentuate this. He doesn’t have a place of his own, and when he leaves his girlfriend and moves back home into the trailer with his mother and baby sister, he has to contend with his mother’s live-in lover, who is the same age as he is.
Eminem is quietly effective without ever displaying much emotion. It’s a commendable film debut and he never falls into the vanity trap that many artists find when transferring their talents from the music stage to the screen. Mekhi Phifer has great presence as The Shelter MC, Future, and a great ensemble cast convincingly envelops us. Kim Basinger judges every scene beautifully and portrays her tragic character with great feeling, while Brittany Murphy is well cast as the girl who is as tough as her neighbourhood. There’s plenty of tension as the build up begins to the final rap playoff, with the crowd going wild and nerves reaching cracking point.
Rabbit’s winning hand is his nous in realising that by revealing his own weaknesses, they are no longer weapons for his opponent to use against him. Superb production design takes us right into the pulse, where raucous energy and the rhythms of rap beat as loudly as the music.
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THE WORLD OF 8 MILE by Eleanor Singer.
8 MILE (M)
CAST: Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, Eugene Byrd
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Curtis Hanson, Jimmy Iovine
DIRECTOR: Curtis Hanson
SCRIPT: Scott Silver
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Prieto
EDITOR: Craig Kitson, Jay Rabinowitz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Messina
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 16, 2002