Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Favorite Scene: 8 Mile


I have trouble with movies that spend their duration promoting and discussing the event that the film will culminate with. It’s one of the main reasons I’m often bored with the majority of sports films: you know it’s all leading up to the Big Game, so where is the conflict?

I mention this because throughout Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile, every character involved makes it very clear that B-Rabbit (Eminem) will eventually attempt to reclaim his street cred in a popular weekly rap battle. Sure, Rabbit fights and pleads against this, but we as an audience know it’s going to happen. The risk in knowing this is that once the film inevitably reaches the battle, should we still give a shit? Well, in the case of 8 Mile’s final scene, the answer is a big, ecstatic Hell Yes.


Rabbit’s fight to win back his dignity via three exceeding challenging rap battles, is, simply put, one of the most exciting sequences from any film released in the 2000s. 
The set up is simple: street rappers assemble in a dark club and battle one another in front of an uproarious, mostly black crowd. The singers go head-to-head, each getting 45 seconds to spit their best rap. The crowd picks a winner, and after a few rounds of single elimination battling, a sole winner is declared.

With exacting, expert precision, Rabbit eliminates two hostile, wannabe thugs, the second of which, the wife beater-wearing Lotto, nearly crushes Rabbit with an ingenious Leave it to Beaver line. But, in amusing ways that need not be revealed, Rabbit owns both battles by the end, and so he moves on.

And now we reach the apex. Jump cutting flawlessly to Rabbit standing face to face with his nemesis, Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie), there's an immediate sense of tension that looms over the film. It's not that we fear for the safety of anyone involved, but rather, we simply cannot wait to see what kind of verbose skill Eminem is ready to unleash. To be honest, there’s no reason to explain in vivid detail what happens, but I will say Rabbit's attack on Papa Doc is not only as cinematically exciting as any One More Play sports film scene I can recall, but it’s some of the best rapping Eminem has ever done. Is it scripted? Of course. Does that lessen its power? God no.
As B-Rabbit, Eminem delivers what I consider to be the very finest film performance by a musician. Ever. People were quick to slight Eminem’s work in the film, saying that, because it mirrored his real life so closely, there was no real acting involved. Nonsense. B-Rabbit is a character laced with humility, restraint, and unhinged ferociousness. You don’t have to like Eminem’s music to admit that the dude’s got game. Well, same goes for his acting work here.

(Also, pay attention to Mackie in this film. It was the man’s first movie, and he is sensational in it. Watching 8 Mile now, it’s clear that we’re watching a star in the making.)

I love every single thing about 8 Mile, and its trio of final rap battles remains as thrilling as it did 10 years ago, when my friends and I sat dumbfounded in a packed movie theater, in awe of Eminem’s multi faceted talent. I cheered along audibly back then, and as time has passed, my applause has only gotten louder.


This post is dedicated to my dear friend Corrin Travis, who passed away on January 1, 2003. This scene in 8 Mile was one of our favorites. It was something we discussed often, imitated regularly and admired always. Today is Corrin’s birthday. He would’ve been 26. Twenty-six and happy.




Previous installments of My Favorite Scene include:

13 comments:

  1. That is my favorite scene in the film. It has B-Rabbit taking control of everything. I wonder if Eminem will ever do another film. He's got the chops to be a solid actor. The way he delivers that rap and laid everything on the line. Additional credit should go to Anthony Mackie for just having to take that.

    I'm currently compiling a list of the best films of 2002 and 8 Mile is somewhere in the middle. It's a film as I've seen it over the years has gotten better. Plus, I just love the soundtrack. Hip-hop was more pure back in the day.

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    1. Hip-hop WAS more pure back then, I could not agree more with you. Now it, like most of popular music, is all about that one track. That one track that sells a shitload. Such a shame.

      2002 was a fantastic year for films - 25th Hour, The Pianist, Irreversible... that and 2007 are definitely my favorite years of the 2000s.

      Really glad to hear you like 8 Mile (and this scene) as much as I do. Eminem has been attached on-and-off to play the lead in a boxing movie. I'd love if that worked out.

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  2. 8 mile is an awesome movie. I really loved Eminem's work in it as well as Brittany Murphy's performance. That scene you described is indeed elecrifying and filled with tension, loved every second of it.

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    1. Nice! I'm so digging all this love for 8 Mile. I often stand alone among most people I know when I call this a great movie. Bloggers unite!

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  3. Interesting analysis, I have started doing posts on my favourite ending scenes of movies, you should check it out.

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  5. Yeah, another movie I have to see! I think I am going to give it a shot tonight or the next few days, I am curious to see for myself how Eminem is!

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    1. He's so good in it. It's shocking how natural he is. He's said making this flick was the hardest thing he's ever done in the entertainment industry, but his work definitely pays off!

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  6. I remember countless times, you and me as ushers perfectly timing our appearance at the start of the battle

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    1. He can't get with me spittin this shit wickedly lickety shot spickety spickety split lickety... remember how long it took us to get that one down? The best of days, right there.

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