Jimmy 'Rabbit’ Smith Jnr (Enimem) works hard at the factory, but dreams of success in the hip hop clubs of Detroit, where the city’s best rappers battle each other with emotional-abuse rhymes as they compete for the respect of their peers. Together with his friends Future (Mekhi Phifer), Sol (Omar Benson Miller), DJ Iz (De’Angelo Wilson) and Chedder Bob (Evan Jones), they hang out and support each other in this tough neighbourhood. Rabbit moves home with his mum (Kim Basinger) and meets the street-smart Alex (Brittany Murphy) after he leaves his girlfriend. But Rabbit has his sights set on winning the 45 second rappers battle at the Shelter.

Curtis Hanson's direction makes you care about these people, all of them.

Jimmy Smith Jr., known as Rabbit, lives in the 8 Mile district of Detroit. His mother, Stephanie, lives in a trailer with her little daughter, and sometimes Rabbit lives there too, but he can't stand Stephanie's latest lover. Rabbit hangs out with a racially mixed group of guys - his 'crew' to use their terminology - Future (Mekhi Phifer), Sol, (Omar Benson Miller), Iz (D'Angelo Wilson) and nerdy Cheddar Bob (Evan Jones), who is also white. Rabbit has a factory job, but this is a depressing part of the world and the young men live pretty miserable lives, lives which are given some meaning by the impromptu rap that the black guys perform and which Rabbit is good at, too.

I didn't think a film about the youth of rap artist Eminem, with Eminem himself in the lead, would be my cup of tea, but then I hadn't counted on the excellence of Curtis Hanson's direction. Hanson makes you care about these people, all of them, and the insights he provides into this deprived world, and the music that emerges from it, are extraordinarily exciting. Eminem has a personality not unlike that of Tobey Maguire – he's shy, wide-eyed, gentle with his little sister, nervous when he's with the sexy but slightly intimidating Alex (Brittany Murphy).

The climactic rap contest is superbly staged. Cameraman Rodrigo Prieto, the DP of Amores Perros, shows how the use of a hand-held camera can be creative, not the least bit pretentious, and integral to the film.


Watch 8 Mile tonight at 9:30pm on SBS VICELAND.