Things aren’t looking great for Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith (Eminem). He’s moving from one dead-end job to another and now he has split up with his girlfriend. With no car and nowhere to stay he is going to have to move back in with his mother (Kim Basinger) and her boyfriend. That wouldn’t be too bad if his mother lived in a nice house in the leafy suburbs instead of a grotty trailer park on the outskirts of Detroit!
Jimmy has aspirations of becoming a big time rap artist. His friend “Future” (Mekhi Phifer) holds “rap battles” at a local club. The battles consist of rappers going head-to-head and using their rhymes to “slag off” their opponents. The audience decides who the winner is. Will Jimmy have the nerve to compete in front of the hostile, predominantly black audience…
This movie sounds a bit worrying – a semi-autobiographical tale with Eminem in his first movie role and Kim Basinger playing the part of his mother! The warning bells really started to ring with mention of a “musical Rocky” and a rap version of Flashdance! Don’t worry, instead of a glossy, egocentric trip to a fairytale ending this movie has a refreshing realism and authenticity to it. At times, especially in the rap club, the filming almost takes on a documentary style.
On the surface, the story is simple enough. A talented, self-doubting kid is looking for his big break. In some ways it is just another “overcome adversity movie”. But this movie, in a realistic way, captures perfectly the hope that everyone has of making it big. Jimmy and his friends constantly talk about making it big with their music. Even his mother is pinning her hopes on her boyfriend’s accident compensation claim. She even goes to Bingo hoping for a big win! Jimmy’s friends recognize that he is talented and maybe if he can make it, they too have made it in some small way.
Eminem is excellent as Jimmy “Rabbit”, a self-doubting kid with little prospects. He knows what he wants but will he have the courage to go for it? Eminem creates a very credible character.
Kim Basinger is also excellent as his somewhat desperate mother who manages to constantly embarrass him.
Mekhi Phifer plays Jimmy’s friend “Future” and Brittany Murphy plays a girl, who like everyone else wants to get out of the ghetto and “make-it-big”. Both are convincing characters and perhaps their roles could have been expanded a little.
The Bottom Line: Rap music aside it is not an original story but it is very well told. The movie is just the right length and holds the interest from start to finish. It avoids the clichés of the “trying to overcome adversity movies” and maintains a sense of realism.
Lasting Thought: What are you doing with your life that’s so great?