Few men, let
alone people, would ever want to get in the ring and go at it with
a heavyweight boxer. For
fear of injury, humiliation, or just because of intelligence or
pride stopping them doing so, most of us will suffice to just sit,
watch and cheer or jeer. However
for anyone wondering what it would have felt like to go a few
rounds with the one known as The Greatest, they need only sit
through the tiring, sometimes flashy recreation of an important
period in the life of Ali. It is at time amazing to watch Smith bring Aliís spirit and
energy to life, but unfortunately this performance becomes bogged
down with prolonged shots with only the musical score behind it,
and an inconsistent pacing and transition, which gives this film
the exhausting feeling of cinematic rope-a-dope.
Ali focuses on
the most formulative and important years of his life, covering his
ascension to the championship (by defeating Sonny Liston)
through his religious conversion to Islam and the pressure, both
external and internal, created by that, through two of his wives,
his refusal to serve in the Army, and concluding with the infamous
Rumble in The Jungle (chronicled wonderfully, in the far
superior documentary When We Were Kings).
This seems like a lot of ground to cover for a movie, and
Mann does allow sufficient time to develop and delve into each
event which molded Clay/Ali into the athletic, and social icon
that is today, however he fails to move smoothly from scene to
scene, instead choosing to hold long, introspective scenes backed
with some nice soulful music, but lending little atmosphere or
deeper meaning to the events.
In the end, Aliís life seems even more crowded,
uncomfortable and disheveled than it really was.
While things are really nice to look at, and hear, it gets
very tiring, and any semblance of interest or curiosity generated
is slowly beaten down, and finally away. The fight scenes, while
well done, also become prolonged and tiring, losing their
intensity and effectiveness, and making us wish, as we do with the
movie, that it would just be over.
Forget the questions of historical accuracies, the lack of
interest generated, fails to make the audience even remotely care
about them. This is
something that Ive stated that films about real life must do in
order to succeed, generate interest.
I knew a lot about Ali already, but the aspects touched on
here only remotely made me curious when introduced, and by their
conclusion, created an ambivalent sense of exhaustion.
There are so many flashes of brilliance, and of what could
have been, in the hands of a director more used to dealing sports
films (Ron Shelton maybe, to make up for Play it To The Bone),
but instead Mann, more used to character based films, than
biographical ones, fumbles the creation, while wasting some
genuinely great performances.
Leading the way,
far and above the rest, is Smith as Ali, putting to rest once
again, those who doubt his genuine acting ability as a dramatic
performer. He proved
it to me in his volatile, vulnerable, powerful turn in Six Degrees
of Separation, and once again here, as he embodies and becomes the
Champ, in the same vein that Jim Carrey became Andy Kaufman.
It is a truly haunting performance, but one that deserved a
much better film. Voight
seems to be getting the lionís share of the buzz in his turn as
Cosell, and while he does get lost in the makeup being
unrecognizable and captures Howardís true nature, even if
softened a bit, the supporting performance to take away from this
film is that of Foxx, as the troubled, but loyal Drew Bundini.
Foxx is making steps to be taken seriously as an actor,
just as Smith did in his Six Degrees turn, with this one, and Any
Given Sunday, and the diverse nature of these roles, he too should
be notice and recognized. Overall, the casting was perfect and dead on, but lost amidst
the cluttered yet lethargic delivery of the film.
is a sometimes flashy, but mostly lethargic and exhausting
exercise in futility which fails to recapture the heart and soul
of a man revered by most, and respected by all who were influence
by his presence. To truly capture a moment in time, all aspects
must be covered, honored, and given their just due, in a
consistent, smooth manner. Mann
may have tackled more than he could handle by trying to bottle the
Champ into just two plus hours, his life could be a miniseries,
that if done well, could hold attention and create conversation
long after. When We
were Kings showed there is a story to be told about Ali, but it
stuck more to reality, rather than recreation, and therein lay its
success between the contender, and the pretender.
Ali KOíd me early on, and even after some brilliant
flashes and jabs, it still could not recover and ends up falling
listlessly, and slightly, into the also rans of the cinematic
out of $$$$$)
Disagree, Questions? Comments?
Tell Me Here