The Eminem Show

8 Mile Starring Eminem, Mekhi Phifer and Brittany Murphy. Directed by Curtis Hanson. Rated R. Tinseltown.
Rated 3.0 Eminem’s feature film debut has the built-in advantage of his playing a version of himself—a white rapper from Detroit. But the guy can act too.

And since 8 Mile also has the advantage of Curtis Hanson’s tough, smart direction, it comes off as an uncommonly engaging drama.

Rap music and violence may get equal screen time here, but the dueling rappers, on stage and in the street, provide the most significant action.

And Hanson and screenwriter Scott Silver have built the tale of Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem) around issues of class and race that inform the rapping and the domestic scenes as well.

Kim Basinger is good as Jimmy’s floundering mom, who is trying to foster a relationship with an unemployed rock musician. And Mekhi Phifer is even better as the dreadlocked impresario who tries to nurture Jimmy’s talents into something more lasting. Blonde Brittany Murphy hits the right notes of pathos and brassy toughness as the would-be model who catches Jimmy’s eye.