Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: R for language, sexuality, and violence.
Run Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
The rumors are true. Nihilistic urban rapper Eminem has “It” in front of the camera. That effortless dissolve of space that signals a chemistry with the viewer, prevailing over the nagging interference of boom mikes, camera people, and sets.
The buzz is
not true. Despite Eminem’s simmering
performance, “8 Mile” is a conventional, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes drama
and racial pressures pervade the very existence of Jimmy Smith, Jr. (Eminem),
aka B. Rabbit. By day, Jimmy navigates
his way through a bleak existence with a factory job, a mom (Kim Basinger)
shacked up in a trailer park with his former classmate, and a dead-end
relationship with his girl. But by night, Jimmy is hanging with his crew,
feeding their dreams in
Divided by the city’s historical
Supporting players, including the charismatic Mekhi Phifer as best-friend Future, lend their professional cool to the proceedings, but there’s not a hell of a lot of narrative to work with. Boy ekes out a living. Boy meets hot girl (a one-note Brittany Murphy). Boy dreams of making it big. Only when Eminem is strutting his stuff, in cavernous but stifling rental halls, does the electricity truly flow. Wounded and enigmatic, he’s a worthy focus.
“Rocky” for the new millennium? I think not. But Eminem has a solid future as an actor, should he tire of provoking us with his music.