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Ali

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Will Smith, Ali
Ali: Frank Conner

Ali

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
runtime:
157 minutes
Wide Release Date:
12/25/01
performer:
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Nona Gaye, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mario Van Peebles, Jon Voight, Mykelti Williamson, Jeffrey Wright
director:
Michael Mann
distributor:
Columbia Pictures
author:
Stephen J. Rivele, Eric Roth
genre:
Drama, Biography

We gave it a B

Oooh, those first 15 minutes of Ali. Sam Cooke wails, women wilt, and Muhammad Ali images flit by: Ali as a kid, Ali jogging down the street, Ali bursting into a weigh-in barking ”Rumble, young man, rumble!”

The rest of Michael Mann’s movie doesn’t come close. Sure, Will Smith gives an Oscar-worthy performance and the direction is technically flawless. But Mann is so enraptured with Ali the symbol — the script contorts wildly to connect him with virtually every major event in African-American history between 1964 and 1974 — that he misses the man. From Ali’s bouts with the Nation of Islam to the Rumble in the Jungle, the movie belies its own tag line (”Forget what you think you know”). In fact, despite the jaw-dropping scope of the film, Mann shows us nothing but what we know; the scant personal insights are either dubious (Howard Cosell informing Ali he’d won his Supreme Court appeal) or reserved for throwaway lines (like the fighter’s well-documented womanizing, which is given quickie, third-act treatment). Of course, none of this means ”Ali” is a bad movie. It’s just that what should have landed like a haymaker feels an awful lot like a glancing body blow instead. B

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