Showing trademark confidence and remarkable subtlety, Eminem makes his movie debut in this almost-biography as a troubled rapper trying to make his mark on Detroit's fiercely competitive music scene. Not easy when you're a poor white kid with a little sister and a deadbeat mother to take care of. With Kim Basinger playing it down and trashy as Ma and the late Brittany Murphy as the more supportive lady in his life, it's easy to lose yourself. It picked up an Oscar for best song.
Director Curtis Hanson dismisses rumours that 8 Mile is an Eminem biography as "silly".
"The overlaps are mainly emotional," he says. "But 1995 - it's the world, time and place from which he emerged."
Set in the infamous white rapper's hometown of Detroit, where he still lives with daughter Hailie, 8 Mile is more like act one, scene one of (the artist formerly known as) Marshall Mathers III's life.
It's a week in the life of angry, poor white kid Jimmy 'Rabbit' Smith Jr (Eminem), who tries to find his voice in the black world of gritty Detroit's hip-hop clubs.
He runs with a mixed-race crew in the hoods around 8 Mile Road, the city border dividing urban and suburban, white and black, in a city whose population is 83% black.
Rabbit is forced to move home to his lush mom's trailer after breaking up with his girlfriend.
He shares the cramped space, paid for by bingo wins, with her toyboy boyfriend and young daughter.
By day he holds down a mind-numbingly dull job at an auto stamping plant.
By night the gang head for the Shelter, where the city's best battle it out in 45-second freestyle slots - rapping each other with their rap, wounding with their words.
Jimmy blows his first chance when he gets stage fright and freezes like the Rabbit he's named after (although, we find out, more for his buck teeth than procreating prowess).
But his best friend Future (Phifer) is determined he should give it another go, while new girlfriend Alex backs him all the way - and plans her own escape to New York.
8 Mile is a bleak, grim film set out in a burnt-out blue-collar city - but one that spawned blues, Motown, hip-hop and even the White Stripes.
Eminem is impressive in his acting debut - although so was Madonna when put in familiar territory.
Profanities turn the screen blue with a script substituting nearly all nouns and adjectives for obscenities.
But look (or listen) beyond that and what you have is a tale of hope, a way out of the doldrums of Detroit.
As Rabbit - and Eminem - would have it: "I'm a ****ing piece of white trash, I say it proudly."