8 Mile

on November 08, 2002 by Kevin Courrier
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Rap artist Marshall "Eminem" Mathers first exploded onto the music scene in 1999 with an insurgent sound that was nihilistic, fearless and controversial, yet also cerebral and playful. In short, he was one of those dangerous artists, and he quickly got under people's skin. Eminem was a full-throated expression of white underclass rage by a young man with an extraordinary gift for words. Director Curtis Hanson, who in "L.A. Confidential" and "Wonder Boys" showed an extraordinary gift for images and stories, has fashioned "8 Mile" as an entertaining fictional biography of Eminem's emergence in the poor part of Detroit.

Jimmy "Rabbit" Smith (Eminem) is a trailer park kid who aspires to be a great rap artist. When he tries to perform at a local club, where he's the only white rapper among scores of talented blacks, he freezes with fear. "8 Mile" is about how Rabbit transcends that fear by confronting his life with his unemployed mother (Kim Basinger), his duplicitous friendships, his somewhat expedient relationship with Alex (Brittany Murphy), and his endlessly frustrating boss.

When most performers make movies loosely based on their lives, they generally portray themselves as misunderstood artists, as Prince did in "Purple Rain." The pleasant surprise of "8 Mile" is that, despite the conventional structure of Scott Silver's script, Curtis Hanson hasn't made a film about Rabbit transcending his underclass roots, but embracing them instead.

As he's shown in his videos, Eminem possesses a furtive instinct as a performer. In "8 Mile," he shows the guarded intelligence of a young man who's ready to pounce at the strike of a match. Kim Basinger also gives a rubbed-raw performance as a woman whose expectations from life have been deeply diminished. Mehki Phifer and Omar Benson Miller, in secondary roles, also provide a lyricism that helps "8 Mile" go the distance. Starring Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy and Mehki Phifer. Directed by Curtis Hanson. Written by Scott Silver. Produced by Brian Grazer, Curtis Hanson and Jimmy Iovine. A Universal release. Drama. Rated R for strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use. Running time: Running time: 126 min

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