Ali (2001)

MICHAEL MANN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  USA, 2001Columbia Pictures Corporation, Forward Pass, Initial Entertainment Group, Moonlighting Films, Overbrook Entertainment, Peters Entertainment, Picture Entertainment.  Story by , Screenplay by , , , Michael Mann.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , Michael Mann, .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , , , .  Academy Awards 2001.  Golden Globe Awards 2001.  

Michael Mann fails to recapture the glory of his marvelous The Insider, but there’s no denying that he has come up with a compelling and entertaining biopic about the career of boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Played here with ferocious intensity by Will Smith, we watch as Ali mouths off his way through personal tragedies (failed relationships with many women, abandonment by the Islamic Nation that he has pledged his life to) and career obstacles (his draft dodge that temporarily cost him his boxing license) until reaching super stardom at a historical boxing match in Zaire against George Foreman (the famous “Rumble In The Jungle” that was the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings). Though the dialogue and photography can’t be criticized one bit, the film is uneven and loses its passion considerably in its last third, failing to maintain the marvelous rhythm it sets up before that point. However, Smith’s performance captures Ali’s humour and tenacity and keeps the engine steaming long beyond where it deserves to go. Mann has assembled a brilliant cast of supporting characters to surround him, including Jon Voight doing a terrifyingly accurate Howard Cosell impersonation (under heavy makeup and hair prosthesis), ,  (Will’s real-life wife),  (Marvin’s daughter), , Jamie Foxx (who as Ali’s close friend and co-manager is the best performance in the film other than Smith), and a fantastic  as Malcolm X, a performance that almost gives Denzel Washington‘s a good run for its money. Ali is no Raging Bull, but boxing fanatics will definitely be pleased.

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