8 Mile

8 Mile


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Eminem's first movie plays safe. Made in Detroit, it tells the story of Jimmy Smith Jr, who lives with his mom (Kim Basinger), her abusive boyfriend (Michael Shannon) and little sister (Chloe Greenfield) in a rented trailer. He works at a car assembly plant and spends leisure time with his rap crew, Three One Third.

Jimmy's recently split from his girlfriend (Taryn Manning), so when a flirtatious mini-skirted blonde (Brittany Murphy) appears on the scene, he doesn't push her away. Actually, he does, at first, because that's his style, but not for long. Sex behind heavy machinery during a lunch break comes with industrial cred.

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Despite being the only white guy in a black ghetto, he's sufficiently depressed to blend in. Life is not thrilling enough to be called a bitch; it's more low grade. Music offers the only prospect of escape and Jimmy carries pen and paper on the bus to jot down a line or two for any future rap contest coming up. Once a week at The Shelter, they have hip hop battles, one-on-one, less than a minute of blistering rhyming insults in the face of an opponent. The cruellest, nastiest rap wins.

Eminem comes from Detroit and spent his dysfunctional years in situations not dissimilar to 8 Mile. His performance is real all right, but is it acting? Certainly his fans will not be disappointed. He wears charity shop cast-offs and looks miserable.

Produced and directed by middle-class white men, the movie crawls through sewage to appear genuine. It is written by Scott Silver, who made johns, an altogether more disturbing piece of work.

The once proud city is a peeling, half-derelict ruin. Racist taunts are commonplace. The solidarity of music is all there is for these kids, but unlike Motown in the old days, their lyrics are designed to hurt.

Women are either hos, or vixen. Basinger's attempt at white trash is compromised by perfect skin and a professional haircut. Despite Eminem's obvious empathy towards the subject, the film feels phoney. Also, the story is shockingly thin.

A questions springs to mind: if Elia Kazan was making On The Waterfront now, would he have garage on the soundtrack and Napalm Death in the cast?

Reviewed on: 15 Jan 2003
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8 Mile packshot
Eminem plays a budding white trash rapper in a black ghetto of Detroit
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Director: Curtis Hanson

Writer: Scott Silver

Starring: Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer, Brittany Murphy, Evan Jones, Omar Benson Miller, De'Angelo Wilson, Eugene Byrd, Taryn Manning, Michael Shannon

Year: 2002

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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