The people of Detroit know 8 Mile as the city limit, a border, a boundary. It is also a psychological dividing line that separates Jimmy Smith, Jr. from where and who he wants to be. “8 Mile” is a provocative fictional examination of a critical week in Jimmy’s life, starring multi-platinum recording artist Eminem in his first leading role in a feature film.
Producer Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind”) knows which movies to pick and “8 Mile” is no exception. He co-produced the musical drama with Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”), who also sat in the director’s chair. The film is roughly based on a part of Eminem’s past, though there are a lot of changes and the film takes place in only one week. Co-star Brittany Murphy says that he is just “perfectly cast” in this role and there’s no doubt about that.
Eminem’s Jimmy Smith, Jr. is friends with several wannabe rappers who more than anything would like to land a record deal. None of them actually have the money to buy studio time in order to record a song. The most promising of the group is Smith Jr. who looks to have the sound, lyrics and rhythm to make it.
His closest friend, David Porter (Phifer), hosts a weekly ‘battle’ of the rappers to see who is tops in the neighborhood on the other side of 8 Mile. Smith, Jr. tries out and ends up choking in front of everyone, making him the laughing stock among the community. But that’s not going to stop him, as there might be a chance for him to break out with a possible recording session a friend is willing to set up for him.
Eminem’s performance as the struggling actor is very impressive. People might say that he’s just playing himself, but he couldn’t have pulled this off without great acting abilities. His trailer-trash mom is played by Kim Basinger who, aside from the accent that didn’t work for the most part, is convincing as a woman who wants to take care of her kids but doesn’t really know how to. Smith, Jr. is forced to move back in with his mom, who is sleeping with someone the same age as him.
Smith, Jr. meets Alex (Brittany Murphy) who shows a lot of interest in the could-be star. She is looking for a way to New York. There’s good chemistry between the two on the screen, Alex and Smith, Jr. have a hot scene in the factory where he works. The crowd loved it.
Curtis Hanson procured a strong supporting cast. Though you’ve probably not heard of most of them, the supporting cast did a great job in bring the story to life. Let’s hope we see this cast more in the future.
The original music by Eminem suits the movie perfectly. Popular song, “Lose Yourself” is used in several instances; and it works well.
The story and the setting are two of the main elements that make this movie great. The run-down Detroit streets, buildings, and the old/poor-looking sets put you right into the middle of things. The script by Scott Silver (“The Mod Squad”) makes everything believable. It’s the real thing. The characters don’t just get a ticket to wherever they would like to go.