Ali (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Ali</strong> (2001)

(In theaters, March 2002) I can recognize that Michael Mann is a great director, but goodness—please give him some espresso so that his films move more quickly. It’s not enough to spend the first twenty minutes of the film on a single fight, but we have to spend another five minutes later on jogging through the capital of Zaire and interminable moments on trivial details of Muhammad Ali’s life. It’s not only slow; it’s wasteful! Ali doesn’t add up, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, to a very good biography of its title subject; Seeing the documentary When We Were Kings immediately after this film gives an idea of the real significance of Ali, and how Mann’s Ali completely misses the target with a plodding, anecdotic narrative. Will Smith only looks like the younger Ali (not the older one of the “Rumble in the Jungle”) but whenever he talks, his voice inflexions are undistinguishable from the real Ali. It’s a courageous film (the political dimension of Muhammad Ali is never too far away) but ultimately a flawed one that ultimately squanders precious talent on a script that doesn’t give us a true measure of the man. Too bad!

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