Directed by Michael Mann
Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson, Jada Pinkett Smith.
MPAA Rating: R for some language and brief violence.

Review by Eugene Kopman <>
March 25, 2002

Will Smith decides to challenge his acting ability but taking on a dramatic role. After years of pleading by director Michael Mann, Smith agrees to take on the role of a legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. What I didnít expect coming into this movie was that Mann only shot 10 years of Aliís life, from Ali still being Cassius Clay, an up in coming boxer to the so called ďRumble in the JungleĒ against George Foreman.

There isnít really much to tell about the plot of this film, because it is something that everyone already knew. Cassius Clay meets black Jewish supporter Drew 'Bundini' Brown (Jamie Foxx) who promises to be his inspiration. Clay then converts to Islam on the advise of Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles) and is given the name Muhammad Ali. Ali had a friendship with a legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell (Jon Voight) and the two had a few great TV interviews. Ali called himself the Peopleís Champ and before every match would showboat around. He was undefeated. Unfortunately, he refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War and was stripped of his title as the Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World and was tried for treason. The title went to Joe Frazier (James Toney), but Ali insisted that Frazier isnít a real champ until he defeats Ali. After the Supreme Court reversed the charge in favor of Ali, the legendary match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place. Ali lost, but before he could demand a rematch, Frazier was beaten by George Foreman (Charles Shufford). This called for Don King (Mykelti Williamson) to propose ďThe Rumble in the JungleĒ, a championship match for the title between Foreman and Ali.

On the other side we have Aliís personal life. His first wife, Sonji (Jada Pinkett Smith), was too glamorous for a wife of a Muslim, so the two got divorced. Ali later meets a much younger woman, Belinda (Nona M. Gaye), a much more suitable wife for his Muslim image. The two have children and are still married. His personal life during those ten years was pretty boring except for his affair with a journalist named Veronica (Michael Michele). The only time that Parkinsonís disease even showed up in the film was right before the Foreman fight when Ali was in his locker room and his hand started to shake.

Smith lives up to the challenge of playing Muhammad Ali. He looked like his and he behaved like him. Smith is an entertainer who likes to show off, so it wasnít that hard, but his performance was the best one I have seen him do. The same goes for the entire cast. Mann knows how to direct and he directs his actors well. While watching Ali, one canít help but think of Denzel Washingtonís Malcom X when seeing Van Peebles on the screen or Ving Rhamesí Don King while watching Williamson, the original two actors did an exceptional job, these two are good, but it is following the footsteps of such great actors, which makes it difficult. Voight is good as Cosell, I donít know why he got an Oscar nomination for his performance; he was good, not great. But it is Smith who carries the movie. Michael Mann succeeds in making a good film with his unique directorial vision. Unfortunately Ali doesnít live up to his previous two works, Heat and The Insider, which are simply both great films. Ali is a great biopic, not a great film.

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Ali (2001)

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