Muhammad Ali lived one amazing life. The film Ali finds only a decade of that life worth focusing on, starting when Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, first won a title over Sonny Liston in 1964 until his knockout of George Foreman in Zaire.
Although the film lasts about twenty minutes short of three hours, it’s visibly thin and nothing but a sliver of Ali’s life. Where is the Thrilla in Manila? Where are the answers to Ali’s lifelong motivation? Where is the Joe Frazier rivalry? Where the hell is the mention of the disease that has left Ali a shadow of his former self? Where in this almost three hours is the Ali we all really want to know? Most of this film is available right now on film.
We rumble around the ring for a while and then fall right into Ali’s life as a member of the Nation of Islam and friend of Malcolm X. Speaking of Malcolm X, in reality there seems to be no correlation between the shooting of X and Ali. Grant you, Ali is saddened, but did we need so much time spent on this?
Then there is the lagging time spent on Ali’s first wife, Sonji (Jada Pinkett Smith), and so much that all you can do is ask a dozen or more questions. Like why does the movie end in the middle of the sixth round in a fight that was just getting started?
Ali is played surprisingly well by Will Smith and believe that Smith isn’t the film’s fault in the end. It’s director Michael Mann’s poor use of time and depth that destroy lots of potential. If you want my opinion, I’d steer you towards ESPN Classics to watch some real footage of the legend himself, Muhammad Ali.
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