As they say in the vernacular, props to director Curtis Hanson for contributing to the short list of hip-hop movies -- like ''Juice'' and ''Beat Street'' -- that don't suck. In fact, with its stylized dinge and straightforward storytelling, the noticeably rose-tinted 8 Mile ranks among such similar rise-up-for-your-art films as ''Purple Rain'' and ''Flashdance.'' Whether intentional or simply the result of inexperience, Eminem's restraint in playing Jimmy ''Rabbit'' Smith, a dead-ender whose only aspirations are earning respect in the local rap competitions and escaping his mom's trailer, gives the character just the right sense of suppressed frustration.
It's the filmmakers who let themselves off easy, however, skirting any discussion of the reason why -- besides talent -- entrepreneurial brothers like Future (Mekhi Phifer) and Wink (Eugene Byrd) would be clamoring for a fraction of the sole marshmallow in the film's Detroit-size cup of cocoa. Even Eminem, in his music, cops to his race playing a part in his success, but Hanson expects us to believe it's all about the kid's flava. To wit, the DVD features footage of Eminem verbally dispatching some on-set extras -- all black. If they'd beaten him, would anyone have wanted to make a movie about their lives?