It’s hard to know what to expect from a movie like Bodied; a story about the morality and ethics of a privileged white guy getting into the battle rap scene seems right on point with the current zeitgeist, but early trailers painted an uneasy picture of the film’s point of view. The trepidation felt towards the movie isn’t too surprising, given the fact that Bodied was produced by Eminem, who is both a legend and a guy who once defended his violent misogyny with “they’re askin’ me to eliminate some of the women hate / but if you take into consideration the bitter hatred / I have, then you might be a little patient / and more sympathetic to the situation / and understand the discrimination.”

But Bodied doesn’t excuse itself from ethical scrutiny in the name of rap. Instead, it takes a level-headed look at the implications of its main character’s entrance into the rap battle scene. The movie begins with Adam (Calum Worthy), a sheltered grad student at UC Berkeley, in awe of battle rapper legend Behn Grymm (Jackie Long). Adam wants Behn to help him write his thesis on battle rap, but in classic competition movie style, Adam “accidentally” finds out that he’s a secret rap genius when he is pulled off of the sidelines and into a rap battle with a posturing wannabe.

The plot of the first two thirds of Bodied is incredibly predictable, complete with a wise-but-challenging mentor and a stuck-up girlfriend who just doesn’t get it. The set up in the first two acts has the viewers guessing at who the final act’s antagonist is going to be. Will it be Megaton (played by actual battle legend Dizaster), the hulking rap battle veteran known for holding nothing back as he decimates his opponents with incredibly personal and violent bars? Or will it be the crunchy-granola girlfriend Maya (Rory Uphold) who thinks that battle rapping goes against everything that is just in the world, and is actively seeking to shut Adam’s dreams down?

Surprisingly, the answer is neither. While both options seem likely in the context of a karate-kid-style competition story, Bodied attempts to break that mold with some shockingly introspective character development. The climax of Adam’s character arc comes when Behn explains to him that the things he says have consequences in the real world. He can’t hide from the repercussions of his racism/sexism/homophobia under the guise of the outside world “not getting” battle rap.

But the movie does stumble a bit in its execution. Some of the more romcom style scenes are a bit too cheesy, and not in a purposeful way. But most glaringly, the last few minutes of the movie come after the most interesting scenes have passed, and only serve to give Adam a pretty ending that he doesn’t seem to have actually earned. In fact, the most satisfying rap battle of the movie comes before Adam even takes the stage for the finale, when Prospek (Jonathan Park, a.k.a. Dumbfoundead) and Devine (Shoniqua Shandai) battle against themselves while leveraging the very slurs and stereotypes that they’re sick of having thrown at them by unimaginative opponents. Even if that scene isn’t the focus of the finale, it does address some of the casual misogyny and racism that’s been waved away by the movie’s “hero” up to that point.

But overall, Bodied accomplishes what it sets out to do: the subject matter is incredibly relevant, the writing is often genuinely funny, and the rap battles are incredibly entertaining. What could have been a movie all about Eminem excusing himself from being scrutinized ends up being a very sobering view of how he and others like him found success. Instead of casting aside claims of cultural appropriation with choruses of “it was hard for the white guy too,” Bodied allows the rightfully frustrated and fed-up characters to speak their opinions without casting them as the naysayers.

In the end, Adam is not the hero. He doesn’t get all his loose ends tied up, and while he does get his moment in the spotlight, he loses so much more. While it might not get everything right, Bodied admits that its subject matter is complicated and nuanced, all while competently showcasing both the ugly and the spectacular sides of battle rap.