Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2001. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Forward Pass, Initial Entertainment Group, Moonlighting Films, Overbrook Entertainment, Peters Entertainment, Picture Entertainment. Story by Gregory Allen Howard, Screenplay by Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. Produced by Paul Ardaji, A. Kitman Ho, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Jon Peters. Music by Pieter Bourke, Lisa Gerrard. Production Design by John Myhre. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by William Goldenberg, Lynzee Klingman, Stephen E. Rivkin, Stuart Waks. Academy Awards 2001. Golden Globe Awards 2001. Phoenix Film Critics 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), Ron Silver, Jada Pinkett Smith (Will’s real-life wife), Nona Gaye (Marvin’s daughter), Jeffrey Wright, Jamie Foxx (who as Ali’s close friend and co-manager is the best performance in the film other than Smith), and a fantastic Mario Van Peebles 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.