In recent years, several hip-hop artists have made the transition from music to movies; some have been more successful than others.
Ice Cube is a pioneer for his performances in Friday and Three Kings, but there’s also Snoop Dogg, Queen Latifah and a slew of other artists trying to get a piece of the pie.
But who would have thought Eminem would want to wet his feet in Hollywood?
The Grammy award-winning lyricist, and a definite thorn in the side of most parents and politicians, has faced national scrutiny for his repeatedly offensive rhymes.
He has insulted everyone from women to homosexuals to techno-artist Moby with no remorse. Many wonder what his motivations for acting are.
8 Mile is the Marshall Mathers III story in many respects.
The story line follows Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem), also known as Rabbit, as he struggles for respect in a city under a heavy cloud of social and racial tensions.
Rabbit wants a one-way ticket out of Detroit and believes recording a demo and showcasing his lyrical skills will put him on the right path.
However, he must first overcome some demons.
In the opening scene, Rabbit is bent over a toilet in a decrepit bathroom of a place called the Shelter.
The Shelter is modeled on a real Detroit venue where freestyle rap battles unfold.
Rabbit’s close friend Future (Mekhi Phifer), is in some ways his Jiminy Cricket, and encourages his homeboy to perform.
Unfortunately , Rabbit chokes and forfeits his battle.
The embarrassment from the Shelter lingers throughout the entire film as Rabbit defends his talent and integrity against his nemesis and freestyle champ a la Apollo Creed, Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie), his bingo-playing mother (Kim Basinger) and his peers, all while maintaining his job at a metal stamping factory.
Rabbit’s triumphs hint at success, but the film is not simply a rags-to-riches plot. This complexity creates good drama and an engaging story.
Eminem is obviously no Robert DeNiro but he excels in his part.
The dialogue, with the exception of the exchanges between Rabbit and his love interest Alex (Brittany Murphy) is natural and believable.
The acting, the cinematography and many other facades of the film breathes authenticity.
One of the best things about this film is the score.
Before the West Coast/East Coast tensions escalated, 1995 was a great year for hip-hop, and throughout 8 Mile, the audience has the pleasure of hearing some of the greatest lyricists, such as TuPac and the Notorious B.I.G. Their presence builds on the momentum of the film and carries the story.
Believe it or not, Curtis Hanson’s (L.A. Confidential) 8 Mile was definitely a creative and financial risk.
A $40 million investment from Universal Pictures and Eminem’s multi-million recording career was on the line. Marshall Mathers and Co., however, prove their worth by creating a dynamic and insightful drama and an even more compelling social commentary.
Carmen Dukes can be reached at email@example.com