Jimmy's biggest challenge, however, is to convince his rival gang and the patrons of "The Shelter", a local rap club, that he has the skill and speed to become a professional rap-artist, something he hopes to achieve by letting his talent speak for itself, during a series of exciting, funny and well-written rap "battles".
Clearly many parallels can be drawn between this film and Eminem's real life, not least of all the way in which Eminem has answered the doubts about his acting abilities by letting his brilliant performance in 8 Mile speak for itself. The role of Jimmy is not an easy one to play either, and Eminem is convincing throughout a range of situations and emotions; although in playing a white rapper from Detroit, he probably didn’t have to look too far for character research.
The other actors in 8 Mile are every bit as believable and skilled as Eminem. Kim Basinger delivers a performance that lives up to her usual high standard, whilst Brittany Murphy is also a pleasure to watch as Alex (Jimmy's girlfriend), even if her character is a little vague, and generally didn’t seem to play much part in the story. In fact, the biggest flaw of 8 Mile is the storyline: it is far from original, and for the most part extremely predictable.
Curtis Hansen directs the film capably, there is a real sense of atmosphere in the rap "battle" scenes, and whilst the film is not exactly fast-paced, at a little under two hours the film did not drag on. However, I felt that the direction did not live up to the excellent standards Hansen set in the Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential.
Considering this is a film firmly set in the rap genre, you might reasonably expect the soundtrack to be outstanding, but this too was not the case. The music failed to stand out at all, and often took a backseat to mediocre dialogue and close-ups of Eminem's face; a decision which could be seen as a missed opportunity, or an attempt to stop popular music over-shadowing the film's content.
Nevertheless, 8 Mile is enjoyable, and Eminem's excellent performance, the wit of his rhymes and the tension that is built during the climax of the film go a long way in making up for the distinctly average plot.
If you are a fan of Eminem, or rap music in general, then you will probably find 8 Mile agreeable, although with the exception of its Detroit-rap setting, don’t expect to find anything new in this film.