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"8 Mile" DVD
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine

 

Guide Rating -  

Tagline: "Find your voice."

Length: 110 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use

I recently watched "8 Mile" on DVD and found it well worth seeing. I had hoped the DVD would have a feature-length audio commentary track by director Curtis Hanson ("Wonder Boys," "L.A. Confidential"), but it doesn't. However, the DVD does have some bonus materials, and I've listed them below.

The movie stars rapper Eminem, and I don't know whether or not he can act, but he has the right screen presence for his role. I liked the performances of the supporting actors, too, particularly Mekhi Pfifer, Kim Basinger, and Brittany Murphy.

"8 Mile" is essentially a gritty social drama, and I don't think you have to like hip-hop to like the film. The hip-hop numbers in the movie focus on individuals speaking words, and the visual montages often used to show hip-hop performances on TV and in music videos are eschewed. "8 Mile" presents hip-hop as being all about words, and it uses those words in the service of plot and character development.

Set against the urban blight of 1995 Detroit, "8 Mile" chronicles a pivotal week in the life of Jimmy "Rabbit" Smith Jr. (Eminem). Rabbit lives with his mother (Basinger) in a trailer and is employed at a plant where "only ex-cons and welfare moms work." He is a glowering, combative young man who gets into several fights during the course of the week.

Rabbit's dream is to become a hip-hop artist, and his friend David Porter, who prefers to be called Future (Pfifer), is trying to help him get started by sponsoring him in rap battles. These events consist of pairs of contestants competing against each other by rapping for, say, 45 seconds apiece, during which time each contestant tries to make himself seem eloquent and witty while verbally putting down his opponent. The winner is the contestant for whom the audience cheers loudest. A few minutes into the movie, we see Rabbit try to compete in one of these battles, but he freezes up. As the crowd chants, "Choke! Choke! Choke!," he leaves the stage in humiliation.

During most of the film we watch Rabbit going about his dreary life, which consists of things like pressing auto parts at his dispiriting job, driving around with his loser buddies while they shoot paint balls and burn down an abandoned house, getting into a fist fight with his mother's live-in boyfriend, becoming sexually involved with a sad girl (Murphy) who has her own agenda, and being beaten up by rivals.

Only a week after choking at a rap battle, Rabbit competes in another one. This time he does much better, but he has no time to celebrate because he has to get back to his job. As the movie winds down, Rabbit still faces all the problems he had at the beginning. The difference is that he's learned more about himself and the world, and he's better prepared to deal with those problems.

The thing I like best about "8 Mile" is its depiction of relationships and social problems of urban lower-working-class people. Also, I think the movie offers psychological insight into what it feels like to be young. I admire the way the film integrates hip-hop into its story, giving me a better understanding of how this form of performance has achieved such widespread popularity.

I must admit that "8 Mile" drew me in only slowly. The film doesn't have strong narrative drive, and there are some longueurs in its series of episodes. Much of the film is gritty and downbeat, and even the ending is only mildly upbeat. But I like the way "8 Mile" mixes elements of a coming-of-age story with class struggle and I like Eminem's performance, and that's enough for me to recommend the movie.

Special Features of the DVD:

  • Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • English 5.1 Digital DTS
  • French 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • English 2.0
  • Spanish 2.0
  • English Captions for the Hearing Impaired
  • The Making of "8 Mile"
  • Exclusive Rap Battles
  • The Music of "8 Mile"
  • "Superman" Music Video
  • Production Notes
  • Cast and Filmmakers
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • DVD-ROM Features

 

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