Over this past weekend, I decided to re-watch the Michael Mann directed biopic Ali, starring Will Smith. Although its story overall is flawed, I thought Mann and company were able to not only capture some of the boxing legend’s greatest moments in the ring, but also the good and bad of his personal life. Muhammed Ali was before my time, but through the many documentaries and online journalism pieces, I got a sense at just how incredible of a life he lived. Creating a biopic that would cover his entire life, from his upbringing in Louisville, Kentucky, to his early success in boxing, winning a gold medal in 1960, to his religious beliefs and fight against the American system, would be an impossible task. However, I felt this film did a pretty good job touching on many points of Ali’s life.
Will Smith stars as Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammed Ali a.k.a. The Greatest of All-Time a.k.a. The People’s Champ. This performance from Smith is by far the best of his career. The actor is able to capture the true character of Ali in every way. Everything from the voice, the physicality, the smack talk, the fearlessness, the humbleness, and everything that made Ali so loved, and so hated. Will Smith’s dedication and craft to becoming Muhammed Ali, alone makes this movie worth watching.
INSIDE THE RING
Michael Mann and the writers decide to focus on 4 of Ali’s bigger fights. Those fights were against Sonny Liston (where he first won the title), his controversial rematch against Liston, and his first match against Joe Frazier a.k.a. The Fight of the Century, and his fight versus George Foreman a.k.a. The Rumble in the Jungle. For the most part, each one of those fights is just as entertaining and intense to watch, as the real ones were. Credit goes to the choreography and the work of Smith and the actors portraying Ali’s opponents. The filmmakers did everything they could to resemble the way each fight went (i.e. Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy), while also recreating those famous real life photos (i.e. Ali standing over Liston in their rematch).
OUTSIDE THE RING
Ali’s relationship with Malcolm X was pretty fascinating to watch. His friendship with the activist, and how it conflicted with his affiliation with the Nation of Islam was done well. It showed how Ali’s power and popularity during the 60’s and 70’s caused rifts with different groups of people’s interest. Ali understood this, and it’s shown through his conversation with people like his first wife (played by Jada Pinkett Smith) where he confronts her about how she’s dressed around him.
The second act touches on Ali’s fight against the American government when they try drafting him into the Vietnam War. Ali feelings on the war, reflected the American people and he wasn’t afraid of expressing it. Moments like this is where Smith’s acting shines, as the power of Ali’s voice is just as strong as his punches in the ring. It’s not just with Smith shouting and ranting, but also is lesser spoken moments that show Ali’s humanity. There’s an inspiring sequence of him running through Zaire, Africa with the natives behind him chanting his name. It’s beautiful to watch.
I can’t also go without talking about Ali’s famous relationship with Sports journalist Howard Cosell (played by Jon Voight). The chemistry between Smith and Voight really capture the fun, comedic, heartfelt relationship between the two. Voight earned himself a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance as Howard Cosell, and its well-deserved seeing as the famous actor was unrecognizable.
The story flow and time given to each aspect of Ali’s life leaves more to be desired, but the effort is worthy enough. Michael Mann’s direction of showing the good and bad of Ali gives an honest and informative telling of his life. Will Smith embodies the legendary sports figure in his truest form. He’s inspiring, charismatic, controversial, and more. As a fan of boxing and of the late Muhammed Ali, I highly recommend watching this movie.
Ali gets a 8.75 out of 10. Rest in peace Champ!
Categories: Re-Watch Reviews