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"8 Mile"

Directed by Curtis Hanson ("LA Confidential", "Wonder Boys").
Written by Scott Silver.
Starring Eminem, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer and Kim Basinger.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  11/10/02 


I was hanging out in the theater on Friday afternoon waiting for my friends Steak and Ted to show up, and I was sitting on a bench near the ticket booth people-watching.  Since nothing else was showing at 1 PM at this theater, I was curious to see what kind of people would be showing up to see Eminem’s movie debut.  My guess?  Hip-hoppers, 17-26 years old, and lots of them.  Man, was I wrong.

Now, don’t get it twisted, there were a few guys in attendance that had that hip-hop look.  However, the number of older white men that came out was astounding.  Couples that looked like they were in their 30s, a few girls that had a hippie look about them, an older black twosome.  I was thinking, “Are you guys here to see the movie about the rise of a white rapper in Detroit?”  They WERE!  And, I think a lot of them left the theater the way I did—pretty impressed.

You know about the plot of the film; if you haven’t seen any ads for this film (doubtful, especially if you use the Internet), it is basically a fictional retelling of Eminem’s rise in Detroit’s rap scene, filmed on gritty, run-down Detroit locations and set in 1995.  So, I am hesitant to call this a stretch for the rap star, but he is called on to play out most of his scenes in this film without rapping for a crowd, so this is new ground for him.  Starring as B-Rabbit, he is very good in most stretches, and he is wisely put in situations that surround him with quality supporting actors.  Kim Basinger is great as Rabbit’s mom, Mekhi Phifer is solid as Rabbit’s best friend Future, and Brittany Murphy (“Don’t Say a Word”) is pure trik as Rabbit’s love interest.  Honestly, I can’t really figure out what it is about Murphy’s look that is so good, because she looks totally cracked out in all of her scenes in this movie.  But, it works, even though she comes into the picture and her scenes too mysteriously for a drama based in reality.  Seriously, it is like she walks everywhere, always shows up at the right time, and falls for him after one party.

My guess as to why the performances in “8 Mile” are so good (and why so many different types of people showed up to the film) is probably the direction of Curtis Hanson, who also did “LA Confidential” and “Wonder Boys” in the last five years.  With his direction of Basinger in her Oscar-winning performance for “LA Confidential” and her role in “8 Mile”, he has actually made me forget that she was once this hot Hollywood starlet that showed up in films like “9 ½ Weeks” by playing her against type, and it works.  One can tell that Hanson and writer Scott Silver are smart about their shortcomings by letting up the reins for scenes involving Rabbit and his freestyling with other rappers; those scenes are obviously the crafting of Eminem and other professionals as they wax on things like rap skills, sexual shortcomings and big dough.  But, for these scenes and many others—like a great scene involving Rabbit and Future rapping to Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”—it feels like it might be scripted, but the cool thing is just watching these two guys have fun with the beat.

The film was also made 100 times better because of the dismal previews shown in front of the film.  Has there been a trilogy in movie history that has gone from unbelievably good to unbelievably bad like the “Friday” series?  The first one is a classic.  The second one, “Next Friday”, had some moments, but was definitely a Matinee.  The preview for “Friday After Next” is so bad that no one in the audience laughed once during the 60-second preview.  Ice Cube has really put together some good work over the last few years, but this one looks atrocious.  Rob Schneider’s “The Hot Chick”?  No way.  That holiday cartoon movie starring the voices of Adam Sandler?  Whoa, that looked bad.  The extended “Daredevil” preview—showcasing its impressive roster of talent—just didn’t look very interesting, and it looked a damn lot like “X-Men” for some reason.

“8 Mile” has some flaws—not enough of the rap battles that make up the front and back of the film’s 120-minute running time at the in-film club The Shelter, and Rabbit’s posse, which just felt made up with the dumb guy, the big guy, and the knowledge guy.  But, it does have a great ending and some great rap songs on the soundtrack...and, whether you like Eminem or not, he is very watchable.  There is something about Eminem’s eyes that make you sense there is always something going on in his head, which hasn’t always been the case for some of the young stars working in films these days.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09