Cool as Ice
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Kind of funny that I see “Cool as Ice” starring Vanilla Ice, and Curtis Hanson’s new film “8 Mile” featuring Eminem in the same weekend. Both feature white rappers, but while Vanilla Ice has always been a caricature (a quality I admire), Eminem, full of passion and anger, able to shoot out rapid-fire poetry, comes across as more genuine. I don’t greatly admire the man; he is a misogynist and a homosexist, but I do admire his music. We learn more about him through his lyrics than from talking to him.
Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith (Eminem) lives in a trailer park with his alcoholic mother (Kim Basinger) and kid sister. The 8 mile stretch is the road that separates the Detroit ghetto from the more posh areas. He and his friends (Mekhi Phifer, et al) dream big, and know for sure that it is a sign of some sort if they can win trash-rapping contests in a basement club. Rabbit is very talented, but lacks confidence, and feels constantly beaten down by lying girlfriend, tough working conditions, nasty racist glares from rival rappers, and, most of all, poverty. We see him struggle through his issues, get beaten up, commit arson, and engage in a short shaky relationship with the unexclusive Alex (Brittany Murphy).
What’s refreshing is that it’s a show biz success story that doesn’t end with the singer signing a contract and leaving town to become the next Beatles. The film, like Eminem’s music, has a hard edge. There’s no fluff here. We don’t have glamorized poverty like in, say, “Angela’s Ashes.” We have filthy and uncomfortable poor sections of town. We don’t have the healing power of love, or a typical success story. We have pain and escape. We have the first step toward a better life, which is enough in this world.
As an actor, Eminem is fine, but then he is playing himself. While he looks kind of blank whenever he needs to be joyful or bright, he has his rage, his passion, his energies hotly focused. The film doesn’t leave us with a warm feeling, but it is an intense experience.