The Collegian
Monday, November 28, 2022

Film Fridays | '8 Mile:' Eminem’s search for a ride to work

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.   

The first time I saw “8 Mile,” hip-hop legend Eminem’s semi-autobiographical 2002 film, I was a scrawny, acne-covered middle schooler with a fangirl-level obsession with the Detroit rapper. The infinitely catchy music and climactic final rap battle marked “8 Mile” as one of my favorites from that era of my life. But, rewatching the film on Netflix now nearly 20 years since its release (Jesus Christ I’m old), “8 Mile,” unfortunately, fails to stand the test of time. Poor acting performances and a nearly nonexistent plot slows the pace down and become boring. Despite the plot’s numerous issues, the finale stands as an exhilarating and memorable showcase of Eminem’s talents that saves the film in some regard.

The only fair place to start is with the star of the show, Marshall “Eminem” Mathers III himself, as he proves that while his abilities on the mic are unmatched, his abilities in front of the camera are about as compelling as a sack of potatoes. His character flip-flops between total disinterest in the world around him and the personification of anger from Pixar’s “Inside Out.” I can only assume director Curtis Hanson had Eminem flip a coin to decide whether to act completely emotionless in one scene or to express all of his emotions at once in the next. It gets exhausting quickly and remains a problem throughout the movie’s runtime. 

The plot is nearly nonexistent. Eminem and his gang of misfit buddies, most of whom he obviously hates, bounce from scene to scene aimlessly for the first hour of the film. Between scenes of Eminem’s uncomfortable relationship with his mother, Em, and his motley crew find the dingiest of Detroit's parking garages to hang out in and provoke fights with The Leaders of the Free World, the gang’s rival rap group. The Leaders never really do anything to Eminem’s group until Em assaults them unprovoked on three separate occasions throughout the movie, so the Leaders finally jump him in response. They exist solely to give Eminem’s character meat sacks to eviscerate verbally in the film’s final battle.

Speaking of characters with sole reasons to exist–Eminem’s character’s love interest is his friend’s sister, Alex. Alex and Em lack anything remotely close to onscreen chemistry, despite their kiss on the cheek upon first meeting followed by immediate “rhythm practice” behind heavy machinery in a car factory the following morning. After their star-crossed expression of love in the factory, Alex virtually disappears from the plot until Em discovers she’s cheating on him with one of his friends. Em beats the friend to a pulp and forgives Alex for all of her wrongdoings without any explanation. But considering this is an Eminem movie, this is pretty much exactly what I’d expect.

Most people, myself included, remember the film almost exclusively for the final act, the triumphant rap battle that sees Eminem’s character live up to his potential as he verbally dismantles the film’s villainous rap group. This is where the film truly shines, as the lyrics and rhythm of the freestyles force the audience out of their seat each time they watch. Eminem’s underdog story feels just as triumphant as classic sports movies like “Rudy” and “Remember the Titans.” It leaves you feeling satisfied as the Hall of Fame gym song “Lose Yourself” plays to the roll of the credits. 

The whole movie feels drawn out until the finale, which admittedly remains as entertaining during my senior year of college as it did when I was rocking Nike Elite socks to school every day. Much like those Nike Elites, “8 Mile” is best left as a memory rather than a mainstay. Save yourself the two hours and find the eleven-minute final rap battle on Youtube

2/5

Contact columnist Ben DeLemos at ben.delemos@richmond.edu.

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