Essentially Saturday Night Fever with hip-hop, 8 Mile stars Eminem as B-Rabbit, an aspiring rapper living in a trailer park outside Detroit.
Eminem’s semi-autobiographical drama follows a tried-and-tested template, the only twist being that it involves a white man trying to make it in a black world instead of the other way round. And unlike The Great Hip Hop Hoax, it’s a film about harnessing, rather than concealing, the truth.
Using the Rocky blueprint, the film lays a solid blue-collar foundation and builds the competition elements up from there. So although the plot points are signposted clearer than the 8 Mile Road (fledgling romance, family trouble, final showdown…) the execution is assured, particularly when it comes to showcasing Eminem’s rap abilities.
What Marshall Mathers lacks in acting range he more than makes up for in conviction, telling a story not so much close to his heart as ripped straight from it. On top of his own songs (Eminem bagged an Oscar for ‘Lose Yourself’) the soundtrack features classic hip-hop cuts from Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang Clan and The Pharcyde.
Other recognisable faces include the late Brittany Murphy, Kim Basinger (who previously worked with director Curtis Hanson on LA Confidential), Detroit native Xzibit, Anthony Mackie and Michael Shannon (who’s actually 2 years younger than Eminem but looks much older because he’s always scowling).
8 Mile never breaks the mould like its star, but Eminem brings a level of authenticity that’s valued in drama and hip-hop alike. Encore, Mr Mathers.