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The Eminem Show

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Fury-filled rapper Eminem has sparked outrage from parents, adoration from fans, and fawning from success-starved music executives.

What can he do for an encore?

Become a movie star, of course. "8 Mile," named after the poor Detroit neighborhood where he grew up, charts the rise of a rapper remarkably like him.

Or at least like the public image he's cultivated, as an angry white boy out to show the world he's tougher, cruder, and more all-around ornery than the black guys who invented the music he loves.

His character, called Rabbit, lives the kind of miserable young life Eminem himself apparently survived. He works in a car factory, shares a trailer with his mom (Kim Basinger) and her live-in boyfriend, and has a heavy-breathing romance with a girl who can't wait to cheat on him.

Who wouldn't be tough, crude, and ornery under such conditions? Our hero certainly is, expressing his anger in rhymes that win the big rap competition (surprise!) that climaxes the story.

Eminem plays Rabbit with a sullen naiveté that seems flat and flavorless to my eyes, and lacks the inner life that black rappers like Ice Cube and Ice-T have brought to their best screen roles.

Nor do I detect much vigor in Curtis Hanson's directing, beyond a liking for hand-held camerawork and very, very, very large amounts of yelling on the soundtrack.

Pop-music biopics have a great history, but "8 Mile" is for Eminem fans only. They're sure to make it a huge, huge hit.

• Rated R; contains sex, violence, and foul language.


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