Date: 17 February 2002
Its quite a brave project in a way, to make a film about the greatest sportsman of all time, the greatest American-hero of all time, a man whose story everyone already knows. Michael Mann avoids controversy and glorifies Ali as a courageous, intelligent, single-minded tragi-hero who takes on not only big ugly powerful boxers but also the even bigger and more ugly US government and Nation of Islam. Whether it was quite that simple I don't really know, but the only apparent weakness Ali seems to have in this film is for women and, well, as everyone in the real world knows, behind every great man there are a quite a lot of humiliated ladies.
The direction of the fight scenes where we see Ali's dancing feet and super-fast movement and punching, and of the poems and Ali-banter is excellent but the plot is distinctly lacking in knockout blows or even suprising jabs; we know what's going to happen because we've read the books or seen the documentaries and so the film meanders in places. Ali's political beliefs are not really explored in great depth, his relationship with Malcolm X rather ambiguous, his childhood and painful relationship with his Father merely touched upon.
Why Mann decided to spend almost a third of the film on the Rumble in the Jungle fight with Foreman when When We Were Kings, the actual documentary based on real footage, does it so much better I don't know. Will Smith does a great job, but the real Ali was, and always will be, infinitely more charismatic and watchable.
comments are closed on this review, click here for worldwidereview home