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Image (c) Columbia
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Mykelti Williamson, Mario Van Peebles, Jon Voight, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright.
Written by Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Michael Mann and Eric Roth
Directed by Michael Mann

A few years ago, a film was released documenting the lead up to, and including, the infamous Don King-promoted “Rumble In the Jungle” heavyweight bout between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman. It was spectacular, one of the most memorable documentaries in the last decade. When We Were Kings won an Oscar, and deservedly so.

Now, comes a film about Muhammed Ali leading up to, and including, the same fight. The major differences are it includes everything from 1964 up to the fight in 1974, not just directly prior to. It is a feature film rather than a documentary. And, to be quite frank, it is not nearly as good.

The major problem with the film is that it is just a bunch of footage, almost seemingly unedited, and it gets very boring. The movie tends to have no direction at times, and floats from one point to another throughout the ten-year, often times confusingly and with little or no explanation. Too many characters come in and out thus limiting our knowledge and feeling towards any of them. I know it is a true story, but being more centralized on certain people probably would’ve worked.

Will Smith is quite good. He delivers the best acting in his life. He’s got the look, the style, the talk and the walk; but he doesn’t capture the magic, the charisma, that made Ali so special. The best performances of the movie come from Jamie Foxx as Drew 'Bundini' Brown, and from Jon Voight as Howard Cossell. I really would’ve liked to see more of the relationship between Cossell and Ali.

The movie was, nonetheless, entertaining for many parts. The fight scenes were done very good albeit they weren’t in the league of Scorsese’s Raging Bull’s boxing scenes. The movie was definitely too long, and for every few entertaining sequences, there was a boring one.

The direction of Michael Mann is a let down in comparison to his great Heat (1995) and recent, very good movie, The Insider. I know he is capable of much better, and take this as nothing but a failure that was bound to fail in the first place. It was not a film that had to be made; it had no reason to be made. Ali is worth seeing, but is a let down overall, due mostly to the major hype of the film, and the expectation of carried as a result of subjecting to the likes of The Greatest.

By Blair Bass

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