Reviewed March 18th, 2003 by Dan Jones
You may not be Eminem’s biggest fan - but you cannot help but respect the person for the empire he has built himself. Love him or hate him, the man is talented at what he does, writing rhymes and rapping.
8-Mile is quite an unexpectedly good film - the story is solid, the film is stylish and dark, and the acting is very natural and believable. Based essentially on the life of Eminem (or shall we say Marshall Mathers), 8-Mile is in no way a documentary of the rapper, rather it takes the setting and some bits of the rappers young life and then adds a new story on top. Eminem plays Jimmy Smith Jr. (“Rabbit”), a struggling white rapper in Detroit with hopes to make it big in the industry but can’t seem to get off the streets and out off 8-Mile. It also shows the trials and tribulations of his life growing up poor in Detroit, where his skin color was the minority of the area. Eminem plays this role quite naturally, never seeming forced with his dialogue. Overall he does a nice job, much better then I expected coming into the film.
Adding to the film we have “Future”, played by Mekhi Phifer, who plays Eminem’s slightly-overbearing friend who is loyal to the way things have been done in the past, signing up Rabbit for rap battles Rabbit would rather not to do in hopes of helping him along. Next we have, in a somewhat strange selection, Kim Basinger as Rabbit’s mother. While the casting of her is a bit bizarre in this part, as its hard not to think of her as simply Kim Basinger, she puts in a solid job. Brittany Murphy comes in to play Rabbit’s love interest/muse as Alex.
Overall, the film works on more levels then it doesn’t. There are some problems, namely the addition of a horribly undeveloped character, Rabbit’s ex-girlfriend who is talked about a lot at the beginning of the film, shown a couple times in the middle then completely ignored at the end. While I was assuming this would be fleshed out via the addition of deleted scenes on this DVD, sadly to say none have been included. Special Edition anyone? One more problem is the pacing of the film in the middle; while it’s not horribly slow it definitely does drag on a bit.
Nevertheless the overall story is well played out, the acting is good and the film is put together quite nicely with good cinematography and a nice style. While the ending seems to bother a good percentage of the people I’ve spoken to about the film, I believe it’s the only way it would work without completely changing the style of the film up to that point. 8-mile is a good film; better then I expected.
As for this DVD release, you have four options to choose from, namely pan and scan in censored or uncensored versions and the same in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. You know which one to get.
For this review we’ll obviously be focusing on the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen version. The transfer presented here looks great, with a very film-like look. 8-Mile is very dark throughout and the transfer here displays it great, with excellent detail even in the darkest of scenes along with great depth and richness in the deepest of blacks. Colors look natural for the film, which seems to use a deliberately muted palette to keep the grim look alive. Grain is present but natural. No transfer problems were noted in the way of compression or edge enhancement. A very nice transfer indeed.
For audio, we have been given 5.1 tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS and both are excellent. The film’s rap battles sound great with very nice use of the LFE. Dialogue is crystal clear and dynamic range is excellent. Surrounds are used nicely to allow the sounds of Detroit to wrap around the viewer. Overall these are great mixes, with the nod going to DTS track as the superior, with greater presence in the LFE and slightly improved imaging.
Rounding out the audio side we have a 5.1 French track, a 2.0 Spanish track and a 2.0 English track.
As for extras, I can’t help but be disappointed.
First we have a 10-minute Making Of, which has little more redeeming value then simply promoting the film you’ve already purchased/rented. We get interviews with a number of the cast, including Eminem, but little insight other then lets talk about the film. Next we have the film’s main extra, the Uncensored Rap Battles. This is more then just battle footage though, providing more of a behind the scenes look at the film. We get more interview footage with Eminem, as well as a look at auditions and rehearsals for the film. While there’s nothing really uncensored here (people do swear), this is the best extra on the disc; definitely worth a watch.
Rounding it out we have Eminem’s new music video for “Superman”, the film’s theatrical trailer, a brief promo for the film’s two soundtracks, production notes, and filmographies. No audio commentary?
This DVD also features Universal’s Total Axess web link (accessible via your computers DVD-ROM drive of course), which will hopefully contain a plethora of original material to add to the somewhat measly amount we have here.
Overall 8-Mile is a good film. The story is good without being corny, the acting is solid, and the presentation is well thought out. This DVD release does a solid job of presenting the film, with a great transfer and excellent 5.1 mixes, but falls short in the way of extras. If you’re a fan of Eminem or rap in general, or liked the film in theaters, you’re going to have to pick this up. If not, at least give it a rent. Recommended.
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