Muhammad Ali is and forever will be the greatest. Too bad “Ali”, the movie does not live up to the name.
The movie was intended to be an insightful look into Ali’s phenomenal life. Instead, it did more in giving its audience insight into Ali the fighter, not the man.
The movie started with Sam Cooke performing and cut to a montage of scenes that were supposed to shed light on Ali’s background, but it did little more than raise questions.
You knew the movie was in trouble when 10 minutes into the movie there was little to no dialogue.
The director, Michael Mann, needed to make up his mind, is this a movie about Ali the man or the fighter. Mann’s mistake was he tried to do both.
The highlights of the movie were the numerous fight scenes, which were as authentic as they come. The in-your-face camera angles and jerky camera shots made you wince because you could almost feel each punch buzz by your ear, blow by blow.
But, the non-fight scenes seemed at points out of focus and more like a home movie, not like a major motion picture.
Between the fight scenes there was little anything. Little dialogue. Little acting. Little insight.
This made the movie seem like five hours long instead of two.
Audience members yawned and squirmed in their seats like restless children.
In an interview with E!, Will Smith said that one of the things Mann and himself were trying to portray was Ali’s ” devotion to God.”
But, the audience does not fully learn what drew Ali to the Nation of Islam and why he changed his name from Cassius Clay.
These are crucial aspects that help to illustrate and explain his “devotion.”
Ali’s relation to Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam was not explained.
The relationship between Ali and Drew “Bundini” Brown, played by Jamie Foxx, was barely touched on.
The exclusion of crucial information in this movie is incomprehensible.
Foxx and Nona Gaye, who played Ali’s second wife Belinda, breathed life into the movie. Their performances definitely out shinned the excellent impersonation Smith gave.
Gaye, the daughter of the late Marvin Gaye, was able to convey her character’s struggle between wanting to be a loyal wife and the desire to leave her cheating husband.
Foxx’s portrayal of Brown illustrated why Ali kept him around despite Brown’s problems with drugs and alcohol.
Too bad these excellent performances were not enough to make “Ali” the movie it should have been.