Opens Nov 8
In the beginning of the movie, our hero is at rock bottom. The hero is poor, and though in possession of natural talent, our hero is unknown and lacks confidence. Wait I'm thinking of The Karate Kid. Or Rocky. Or Footloose. Or Breaking Away. Or Flashdance. Or Vision Quest. Or any movie from the '80s starring Tom Cruise. Regardless, this is also the plot of the new Eminem movie, 8 Mile.
Em plays "Jimmy": A down-on-his-luck honky with a talent for rapping, but who's stuck in the predominately black underbelly of Detroit. Jimmy rolls with the "313" crew, a gang of wannabe rappers who plan on moving on when Jimmy breaks out. However, Jimmy's confidence is so low, he chokes up at the weekly MC battles and is therefore considered by the community at large to be "wack."
While this plot easily falls into the "underdog comes from behind" genre, it's raised up a notch or two by the gritty, naturalistic direction of Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential). Adding to the realistic tenor are Em's friends and enemies: all excellent actors who can pull an audience into a scene. Even Brittany Murphy, who plays the obligatory love interest/muse, brings a slutty complication to the role (although, when she and Em are banging each other in a nasty factory, she makes weird faces that look like a fish).
And here's where the downside ensues. Kim Basinger as Em's lushy mother STINKS. Though she's supposed to be a Detroit native, her accent resembles a supporting character in Fried Green Tomatoes. As an actor, Eminem is not horrible, he's just not present. Even when he's in his element at the MC battles, his eyes barely flicker. And this is where the real problem lies. Eminem is an amazing rapper, and we don't really get to see him strut his stuff until the climax. By then, we're so uninterested in whether the character succeeds or not, we're robbed of the emotional high that comes with the ending of The Karate Kid. Or Rocky. Or Footloose. Or Breaking Away. Or Flashdance. Or Vision Quest. Or any movie from the '80s starring Tom Cruise.