Urban Cinefile
"This girl said to me: Why are you closing your eyes? I want to see your eyes. Men always close their eyes when they fuck me! - "  -Paul Verhoeven reminiscing
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



The condensed story of 10 years in the life of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali (Will Smith), between 1964 and 1974: a partial bio-pic that focuses on his boxing career and his women, but also explores his growth as a boxer, a civil rights hero and a Muslim, all as if we were at his side.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you glance at the credits, you’ll see a plethora of producers, several screenplay writers and even editors share the tasks. The point I want to make is not the cliché about the collaborative nature of filmmaking, but that even with so many cooks, the film turns out to be such a good, spicy, satisfying dish. Of course, even as we watch it, we realise that there are at least two more films to be made about Muhammad Ali, but this is a great start. What a story. How come it hasn’t been filmed before? An idiosyncratic man, whose high profile career – heavyweight boxing champions are high profile – crossed the tumultuous years of America’s black civil rights movement. And the story of a man whose personality is as contradictory as any fictional hero or anti-hero you can imagine. Will Smith creates a wonderful persona, not an impersonation, but a credible character, a man with more than superficial smarts and full of weaknesses as well as strengths. His sense of what’s true sings out in key scenes, including a remarkable moment when he berates American society while defending his decision to refuse to go fight in Vietnam. I hope this is part one of a trilogy of films about the man – and I hope Michael Mann directs them all.

Review by Louise Keller:
The name Muhammad Ali will mean different things to different people. But whatever the name means to you, I guarantee that Michael Mann's riveting film will open your eyes and heart to the man behind the mouth and the boxing gloves. Not intended as a docu-drama, Ali is above all, riveting entertainment. A moving portrait of a unique individual, an exceptional sportsman and civil rights leader, we are there for the trip – and we feel as though we have been privy to a glimpse of a very crucial part of Ali's life. A man of contrasts, he is a loudmouth and aggressor in the ring; a gentle, loving human being at home. Throughout his triumphs and failures, trials and tribulations, one thing is certain: here is a man unafraid to be who he wants to be and to think how he wants to think. He stands up for his beliefs, whatever the consequences. In an extraordinary transformation, Will Smith gives the performance of his life, and is wholeheartedly convincing as the champ. A year in training and 35 pounds heavier, at times Smith even gives the illusion of looking like Ali, physically and with trademark boxing moves. All the cast are tops, including Jada Pinkett Smith (Smith's real wife), who plays one of Ali's three wives. Great cameo by Jon Voight, who is almost unrecognisable as sports commentator Howard Cosell. Shot in Chicago, Miami, New York, Mozambique and Ghana, the film looks great, while Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke's score binds it together. As varied as the subject matter, I especially love the rhythms and pulses of the scenes shot in Africa. It's an intriguing story well told and although you may suppose that the boxing sequences will be the ones filled with heart-stopping moments, it's actually the moments out of the ring that are the most fascinating. Ali's conversion to Islam, his playful tenderness in his private life, his determination, dedication and loyalty – this is a story you will not forget. The 157 minute running time simply flies – Ali puts you on the edge of your seat and satisfies. We may only be spectators, but we are there before and after the fight – cheering for Ali and the freedom he represents.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0




CAST: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Suilver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nona Gaye, Michael Michele, Joe Morton, Paul Rodriguez, Bruce McGill

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

PRODUCERS: Jon Peters, Paul Arbadji, A. Kitman Ho, Michael Mann

SCRIPT: Stephen J. Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson and Eric Roth & Michael Mann (Story Gregory Allen Howard)


EDITOR: William Goldberg ACE, Stephen Rivkin ACE, Lynzee Klingman ACE

MUSIC: Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke


RUNNING TIME: 157 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021