“The battle-rap sequences are what people will remember 8 Mile for, and that makes sense because there isn’t a whole lot else.”
After years of being a fan of Eminem I finally got around to watching 8 Mile, a pseudo-biography about the life of the iconic rapper. 8 Mile is a movie about Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr., a man who, much like everyone else in Detroit, is down on his luck. B-Rabbit finds solace in both writing rhymes, as well as participating in various battle-raps hosted by his friend Future. The film essentially deals with B-Rabbit having to juggle his immensely difficult life where obstacles seem endless and terribly-timed, with his passion for music and self-expression.
So as I’ve mentioned, 8 Mile is a kind of take on Eminem’s actual life story. The details are different, but the broad strokes are there. Broken home life, slums of Detroit, rapping; all of the key points are present. That being said, 8 Mile doesn’t offer a whole lot of new insight to the world of movies. At its core it is an underdog story, but it’s not one that is all that impressive. 8 Mile follows B-Rabbit, a man who wants to make it big (just like everyone else), and by the end of the movie he… gains a bit of respect. I’m not shitting on what was actually a pretty interesting character arc, but looking at the beginning and the end of this film really leaves you feeling a bit underwhelmed. One thing 8 Mile did have going for it was the fact that it is a pretty engaging movie. Despite clocking in at almost two hours and (as I’ve mentioned) having a bit of an underwhelming story, 8 Mile manages to never be boring. There is always something to keep you interested from the interactions between characters, the general study of people living in Detroit, or the performances. Now the performances are something that I want to discuss because I found them to be kind of a mixed bag. First of all let’s talk about Eminem who was in this movie because it’s practically about him. Despite that fact, he actually holds his own. A lot of 8 Mile is based around this anger that everyone is feeling and exhibiting, and as B-Rabbit he knocks this out of the park. I did find his performance to grow a little weaker during the more emotional parts of the film, but for the most part he not only did better than I had expected but he actually did a great job. I also felt that a lot of the supporting characters, both the friends and enemies of B-Rabbit, did a great job of filling out the world of 8 Mile. One of the standouts in this regard was a surprise appearance from Anthony Mackie. Mackie did a good job playing B-Rabbit’s rival, and the leader of ‘The Free World’, a gang of dudes who like to wear fur coats. But on the flip-side you also have some performances that weren’t so great in my opinion; the main two being Brittany Murphy and Kim Basinger. As B-Rabbit’s mom, Kim Basinger felt very inconsistent. I understand that in part this was to convey the toxicity that Rabbit had to face at home, but it didn’t really come across that way. I felt Basinger’s performance never really allowed her to do anything meaningful, instead transitioning lighting-fast from hysterics to hilarity. As for Brittany Murphy, what can I say? There was almost nothing to her character, and that was due in part to her performance. As the love interest in the film, Brittany Murphy is essentially a blank slate. She’s there, but that’s about it. Mainly she just acts as yet another ‘goal’ for Rabbit to work towards, but that even falls through later when they just stop caring about one another. But I can’t end this section without talking about the man, the legend, Michael Shannon. I’m telling you, I have yet to see Michael Shannon role that I don’t like. The intensity that he brings to his portrayal of Greg, the new boyfriend of Rabbit’s mom, is amazing. The scenes he shares with Eminem are some of the best in the film because you can just feel the emotion oozing from the screen.
But let’s be real here, you don’t watch 8 Mile for the story or the performances; you watch it for the sick raps. Let’s start by talking about the soundtrack for the film which was incredible. Not only did 8 Mile introduce us to the masterpiece that is ‘Lose Yourself’, but it also features really interesting montages that allow us a peak inside the mind of an artist. These segments of the film usually involve Rabbit listening to headphones while the audience listens to a beat. Over this beat we hear various rhymes, some of which we are familiar with, but they are edited in a way that conveys the thought process of the creation of these rhymes. These segments would have been overkill (a kind of self-pleasuring act) if they were overused, but we really only get two which allows us to appreciate each one. But hands down the best part of 8 Mile is the battle-rapping that occurs in the film. Holy shit are some of those rhymes sick. In 8 Mile we get to really feel what it’s like for these rappers to be in front of this giant crowd while everyone is screaming, only for them to deliver expertly thought-out verbal blows that try to disarm their opponent before their time is up. These raps are definitely the best part in the film because it really immerses you in the feel of this world. This is what people do to express themselves. This pure hate that drips from their mouths like venom is the way for them to let off steam and release those thoughts that are crammed in their head; and at the same time you can feel a sense of respect between the two who are rapping. The battle-rap sequences are what people will remember 8 Mile for, and that makes sense because there isn’t a whole lot else.
Overall 8 Mile is a movie that I enjoyed, but in spite of its flaws. I would say that the story is fairly weak, giving us a rather watered-down version of the ‘underdog story’ that we’re all so familiar with. I found the performances to be inconsistent, some being passable while others were laughable. What really makes this movie something special were the battle-rapping portions that really managed to capture the feel of what is such a huge part of many people’s lives.
I give 8 Mile a B