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Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith (Eminem) lives on the wrong side of Detroit’s 8 Mile, the road dividing the city limits from its depressed northern suburbs. His ex-girlfriend is pregnant, he has trouble holding down factory jobs, and he lives in a trailer park with his deadbeat mum (Kim Basinger). Rabbit’s only outlet – and his only real talent – is rap battles; fierce freestyle rapping where winners can land record contracts. With help from his best friend (Mekhi Phifer) and confidence from a new girlfriend (Brittany Murphy), Rabbit channels all his rage and enters the ultimate of rap battles. 

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
A film you want to see more out of curiosity than anything else, 8 Mile is a fairly standard grass roots drama with one big difference; it stars the controversial white rapper Eminem (Marshall Mathers III Jr) in his semi-biographical breakthrough role. As in most rags-to-riches melodramas, a misunderstood genius (guess who?) pulls himself up from humble beginnings and learns to harness his true potential. But the fact that it’s potty mouth Eminem in a story that resembles his own origins makes 8 Mile an inspiring and truly unique film. If only all pop stars had similar happy ending stories; you’ll never see Michael Jackson do this.

So the question on every fan’s lips is can Eminem act? Well, no, he can’t. Not because he’s a terrible actor, but because he’s not acting in 8 Mile. He’s just being his true self; insular, shy, unsure of himself and undoubtedly replicating the feelings and emotions he had while a struggling, marginalised rapper. 

Yet under the assured direction of Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys), Eminem delivers an earthly, straight-forward portrayal that resonates much more than an over-acting Kim Basinger can muster. Who knows if it will be Eminem’s first or last role, but he does a bang-up job of it. His debased, no-nonsense performance matches Hanson’s gritty, no-frills approach. 

The DVD package continues that no-frills attitude. In the Making-Of featurette, Hanson, Eminem and Phifer talk candidly about the geographical and psychological border of 8 Mile, about freestyle rapping, and about how words can be used as weapons. Fans will be most impressed with the 24-minute Exclusive Rap Battles, which are almost as good as those in the film.

The Music of 8 Mile is divided into three segments and allows you to select titles and see accompanying footage from the film. The Superman clip is uncensored, gratuitous and downright naughty. It features Eminem in compromising positions with porn star Gina Lynn and an orgy of half-naked models. Finally, there are trailers for 2Fast 2 Furious and The Hulk. 

Overall, 8 Mile on DVD goes the extra mile for fans, expanding the best parts of the film and showing different sides to a usually stand-offish and reserved Eminem. Bravo to him for being involved with the DVD.

Sometimes, as Eminem raps, you have to lose yourself in the music. You could do a lot worse than in 8 Mile.

Published May 21, 2003

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8 MILE: DVD (M15+)

CAST: Eminem, Mekhi Phifer, Brittany Murphy, Kim Basinger, Evan Jones, Omar Miller, Eugene Byrd

DIRECTOR: Curtis Hanson

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9, Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS

SPECIAL FEATURES: The Making of 8 Mile, Exclusive Rap Battles, The Music of 8 Mile, DVD-Rom Featuring Total Axess, Theatrical Trailer, 2Fast 2Furious Trailer, The Hulk Trailer


DVD RELEASE: May 21, 2003

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