Two films that examine the conditions of the working class and the forces that give their lives meaning are paired together here: the hip-hop biopic 8 MILE and football drama FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.
Controversial rapper Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) makes his big screen debut with 8 MILE, a bracing drama directed by the increasingly audacious Curtis Hanson. Set in 1995 in the bleak, urban battle zone of Detroit, the film follows the struggles of a young man who is desperate to make a better life for himself. Jimmy Smith, Jr., better known as Rabbit, is destined for a life of squalor. Living in a cramped trailer with his deadbeat mom (Kim Basinger), Rabbit works in a factory to make ends meet. His only outlet is hip-hop. Possessing a talent for freestyle rapping, Rabbit still hasn't managed to unleash his true potential. But his best friend, Future (Mekhi Phifer), is determined to make that happen. Future forces Rabbit to enter a freestyle battle that he blew the week before, giving him another chance at redemption. Hanson's stellar portrait of lower-class urban disillusionment, shot with uncompromisingly gritty realism by Rodrigo Prieto, proves that the issue is no longer about race, it's about money. Eminem delivers a bold performance as the troubled youngster who is still trying to find his place in a harsh, cruel world.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Based on the best-selling book by H.G. Bissinger, Peter Berg's gritty, powerful drama tells the true story of a small Texas town in which high school football is the only thing that matters. Set in 1988, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS opens on the first day of practice for the Odessa Permian Panthers. Under intense pressure and scrutiny from the town's residents, head coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) nonetheless maintains a calm faade. His star player, Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), is a running back with unlimited potential, but the rest of the team is undersized and lacking killer instinct--especially quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), who's shy and short of confidence, and Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), who is tormented by his father (Tim McGraw) for being too soft. When Boobie goes down on opening day with a career threatening knee injury, the season appears to be over. But Gaines won't give up, and neither will the rest of his feisty players.
Billy Bob Thornton delivers another outstanding performance in Berg's impassioned drama, as do the film's young actors (most notably Luke, Black, and Hedlund). Tobias Schliessler's fuel-injected photography and Explosion in the Sky's electrifying score make FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS an even more spectacular movie-going experience.