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First things first, there's only one Muhammad Ali. In terms of his hilarious trash-talking media personality and lightening-fast combination punching and footwork, he's a man that stands at the top as one of the most entertaining and toughest sports personalities of all time. Very few would doubt that he justly deserves his self-proclaimed title "The Greatest".
With that in mind, he is a near-impossible man to replicate. God knows Will Smith tries his best, though. The actor impersonates the champ's swagger and wit very convincingly from scene to scene, without coming across as cartoonish or clichéd. An immaculate training schedule -- Smith trained six hours a day, five days a week, for a whole year -- allowed him to bulk up to a 220-pound Ali, making him fit enough to accept the role. From the evidence here, you wouldn't think Smith was the same man that played the Fresh Prince for five years in the early to mid '90s -- it would seem he's matured considerably as an actor.
Aside from Smith, though, it's disappointing that the film lacks substance and leaves too many questions unanswered about Ali's life. Like, what was the real reason the fighter was not imprisoned for his draft evasion charges? Did Sonny Liston really take a dive in the first round of their rematch? And what really attracted him to the nation of Islam and then later motivated him to convert to Sunni Islam? Ali hints at certain issues but fails to explore a majority of them in detail, and with this being a biopic, lasting over two and a half hours long, you'd expect a lot more.
The overall pacing of the movie suffers as a result -- and for Mann, who masterfully directed classics such as Heat, The Insider and Collateral, that's surprising. After a great opening depicting Ali/Clay's fight with Sonny Liston from 1964, where he first won the WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles, the film descends into pedestrian storytelling, taking too long in its decision to focus primarily on The Champ's liaisons with various women and his connections with Malcolm X (played by Mario Van Peebles), in what seems like a rehash of the 1997 biopic starring Denzel Washington.
Admittedly, Mann deserves some of the blame for his direction, but the root of the film failing to get to the heart of its subject lies in the script. Except for a few intriguing moments ("Ain't no Viet Cong ever called me nigger"), Ali's philosophy is barely touched upon; after his pal Malcolm X is shot, for example, he spends his time overlooking the city and not saying anything. What Ali lacks is a compelling, narrative understanding of the events that occur, which would show young viewers, as well as remind the older ones, what made the man so influential outside of the ring, and earned him the reputation as the people's champion.
That said, the film is still worth seeing. The fight scenes are stylistically shot by Mann, focusing mainly on Ali/Smith's exceptional footwork, and there are other odd moments outside of the ring that do bring excitement -- Ali's pre-match outbursts and interviews with Howard Cosell (brilliantly played by an almost-unrecognizable Jon Voight) are among these. Apart from Smith in the lead role (who I have no doubt saying that he was the right man to play Ali), and Voight as the self-assured sportscasting legend, the film also has some noteworthy performances from Jamie Foxx as Drew Bundini Brown, Ali's self-destructive speech writer and cornerman; Ron Silver as trainer Angelo Dundee; and Mykelti Williamson as flamboyant promoter Don King.
If Ali must be summed up in the general sense, however, the bottom is the film fails to generate enough steam to justify the importance of the man that many people admire, and it ultimately ends up being rather bland and uninspiring.
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see."
Film only review
Muhammad Ali was a boxer, right? I just thought I'd ask; the film Ali barely gives the boxing a look-in. We see all about his external influences, his views on race, his relationships with women, his political leanings, but not much of what made him famous in the ring; his ability to hit people so hard they couldn't stand up for ten seconds - the noble art of boxing.
Of course, Muhammad Ali wasn't just a boxer; he was one of the greatest sportsmen the world has ever seen; a charismatic icon with a wit as sharp as one of his uppercuts who become one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century.
Born Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen. Olympic gold medallist and three times Heavyweight World Champion, Ali was a controversial and outspoken character whose intellect and wit outside the ring matched his prowess inside it. Ali was not a man given to modesty. "I'm the most recognized and loved man that ever lived cuz there weren't no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn't know about them."
The film, directed by Michael Mann and released in 2002, chronicles Ali's life and career from the first time he won the World Title in 1964 to the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" of 1974. This period also encompasses his criticism of the Vietnam War and his subsequent ban from boxing and potential jail sentence, his relationship with Malcolm X and religious conversion, and his complicated love-life.
Muhammad Ali, cultural and sporting icon, and one of the most famous men to walk the planet, was a tough role to take on. Despite being told by Ali he wasn't good-looking enough to play him, Will Smith got the part.
Unfortunately, for all his likeability, Will Smith can't reproduce the charisma of the man. He put on 35 pounds for the role, learned to talk in his distinctive, softly-spoken voice and reproduced many of his mannerisms. Unfortunately, for all his efforts, his performance comes across as exactly what it is; an impression, an imitation of greatness. The fact that Ali's life was so well documented just adds to this inadequacy, the fact is that we've already seen many of the scenes from the film Ali - but starring the man himself.
That's not to say it's a bad performance by Smith; it is actually very impressive and a mark of how far he's come as an actor. Smith's commitment to the role and dedication to learning the nuances of Ali's character is easy to see. This is demonstrated by the fact that Charles Shufford (playing George Foreman), a real life 235 pound heavy-weight boxer, was given free-reign to punch Smith, the only proviso being that he wasn't allowed to actually knock him out. It's difficult to see any of Smith's peers agreeing to this and in many ways it's hard to criticise such a performance. It's just that Ali, love him or hate him, was a one-off and impossible to replicate.
The film covers many of the issues affecting Ali, and America at the time, but never really gets to the heart of any of them. It glosses over many of the big fights and events in Ali's life. Fights that could (and have) been made into films or documentaries in their own right are reduced to mere asides.
It's difficult to really keep track of the time frame in which all this happens. At the start of the film he's a young fighter, exploding on to the scene. The next moment he's accused of being too old to fight. Yet Will Smith looks and acts the same throughout the film - like a young popstar
The film isn't entirely without merit; the actual scenes in the ring are the most realistic I've ever seen in a movie, the acting throughout is solid throughout and Jon Voight provides some excellent comic relief in the form of journalist Howard Cosell . The film is wonderfully shot, with some fantastic, colourful scenes contrasting with gritty realism in the ring. It's great reliving some classic Ali moments and interviews.
For all that, Ali was a film I really wanted to enjoy but was disappointed by. It is dull and disjointed at times and drags at 157 minutes long. Despite this length, the film ignores or glosses over some of his greatest fights (The Thriller In Manilla), the controversies (the Sonny Liston fight) and other issues in his life (the throwing away of his Olympic medal and tragic onset of Parkinsons).
Fans of Ali will learn nothing new. People less familiar with him will learn little about his true greatness; his prowess in the ring and his magnetic, iconic personality.
6.6/10 - IMDB
67% - Rotten Tomatoes
Well, there's some fighting! Some strong swearing, so not really suitable for very young children.
If you want to see a boxing film, watch Rocky. It's not as realistic or gritty, but at least it's exciting and fun.
If you want to see Ali at his best, rent a film of one of his fights. Watch a documentary. Even search one of his interviews on youtube. "When We Were Kings", crucially starring the man himself, is well worth a watch.
Personally, I wouldn't recommend watching this at all. After the fairly unexpected and sudden end, you could, if you didn't know much about the man, be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about. And, for a man like Ali, that is a travesty.
A Muhammad Ali biopic is seemingly one of the easiest to make - there's plenty of fascinating material to tell, but sadly, it appears there may be too much to fit into one film successfully, for Michael Mann's biopic, Ali, has decided merely to focus on a singel decade of his life, from 1964-1974, and therefore skimping on a lot of the more important details, particularly the personal ones.
The film begins as Ali is still under his "slave name" of Cassius Clay (Will Smith), and continues as he rises up the ranks, as well as documenting his friendship with Malcolm X. It can be at least said that the film captures a sense of culture, notably as it depicts the assassination of Malcolm X, which has a large impact on Ali himself. The film further depicts his drafting to the war, to which he refused to be a part of, and faced prison time, as well as his fights with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974.
It's fair to say that the performances and direction are mostly outstanding, but it's a shame the film didn't cut out some of its ridiculously long slow motion montages in favour of infusing some more about the relationships with the women in his life, and also perhaps a little more in the fighting department past the Rumble in the Jungle. It glosses over a lot of his negative publicity, such as his supposed assault of his wives, in favour of a more flagrant jubilation of the man, which is, I guess, somewhat excusable.
A surprisingly muted biopic that covers only a decade of Muhammad Ali's incredible life story, but delivers Will Smith's best performance to date. Michael Mann's direction is atmospheric as usual, but also, as usual, makes for a film that is much longer than it needs to be.
Born Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali converted to Islam during the course of his boxing career, and turned his back on his Christian background and slave name. This was to colour much of his life outside of boxing; he divorced his first wife, for example, because although she converted to Islam herself, she refused to dress appropriately. He claimed that fighting in the Vietnam war was against his religious beliefs, leading to all sorts of trouble, including the possibility of a long prison sentence. Despite his personal life, however, he managed to stay on the top of his game in the boxing world, to become one of (if not the) greatest and most revered boxers this world has ever seen. This film is director Michael Mann's story of Muhammad Ali's life - or at least, his life between 1964, when he became the World Heavyweight Champion and 1974 when he knocked out George Foreman in the match known as 'The Rumble in the Jungle'.
This DVD has been sitting on the top of my DVD player for weeks now. Having borrowed it from a friend who highly recommended it, I put off watching it simply because I don't like boxing (or any other contact sport) - in fact, I would go as far as to say I despise it. However, I like to challenge myself to watch films out of my comfort zone, so I put it on...and was quickly captivated. Not so much because of the story, although there is no doubt that it is inspirational in many ways, but because of the spellbinding performance that Will Smith gives as Muhammad Ali.
Smith spent months training for this role. He learned to speak like Muhammad Ali, but even more impressively, he also learned to box so that he could perform the boxing that we see himself. This obviously enabled Smith to get under the skin of Ali, which no doubt helped his performance no end. There is more than good preparation for the role though. Smith gives a deeply moving performance; so much so that I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion - and I am not someone that easily cries at films. Smith's facial expressions when, for example, he hears of Malcolm X's death and when he realises just how much of a hero he is to some people are truly humbling (no apologies for sounding like Paula Abdul!). I don't think that Will Smith particularly looks like Muhammad Ali, yet his performance was so realistic that it didn't matter. I have never doubted that Will Smith is a great great actor, but I really believe this role tops them all. Superb.
There are countless other actors that appear in the film, some with big names like Jamie Foxx and Will's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. However, all of these roles are insignificant compared to that of Ali - the man himself was larger than life and Will Smith took that on board and eclipsed everyone else in the film. I do, however, have to briefly mention Jon Voight, who plays Howard Cosell, a journalist who develops a love/hate relationship with Ali - his chemistry with Will Smith is fantastic and together, they add some much needed humour to the film.
I have already mentioned my dislike of boxing. I think one reason that I found this film so watchable is that there isn't all that much boxing in it, at least compared to the overall length of the film. If expecting a blow by blow account of his boxing achievements, this may well put some people off. For me though, it gave me a different insight into the life of a man I have previously associated only with boxing. I have heard some criticism of the fact that Michael Mann chose to concentrate on just one decade of Ali's life, instead of providing the audience with a straightforward biopic - the gripe being that anyone not familiar with Ali's career before 1964 would be lost. Personally, I had no problem with that - even though I had no idea before watching the film that Muhammad Ali and Cassius Clay were one and the same person (yes, I am that ignorant!), I found it fairly easy to work out what was going on. In any case, there really wasn't time to fit his whole eventful life into a film that is already over two hours long.
I was quite suprised at how well-made the film was. I usually associated biopics with straightforward camera angles and rather boring sets. It isn't visually amazing, but there is enough going on to draw the viewer in - at least it drew me in, glueing me to the screen even during boxing matches when I perhaps would rather have looked away. I was impressed by the attention to detail - the shots of Ali's feet whilst 'floating like a butterfly' as he put it, and his fists while 'stinging like a bee'. And I liked the fact that the locations constantly changed - much of the story takes place while Ali is visiting Africa, for example, so we get to see some of the local colour there. Despite the criticism directed at Michael Mann for the making of this film, I think he did a great job.
Music in film is rarely something that I notice - I believe that if the film is compelling enough, the viewer shouldn't be paying all that much attention to the background music. However, here, it is woven into the film in such a way that it becomes part of the film and I really enjoyed it. Sam Cooke features quite heavily, but what I really loved is the African music that is played every now and again - I don't know enough about African music to be able to place it, but it sounded great and fitted in perfectly with the film.
My version of the DVD comes with two discs - one for the film and the other for the special features. The best special feature is 'the making of' documentary - this includes interviews with all the main characters and the director. It shows how hard Will Smith worked for the role; it also shows him with Muhammad Ali himself - Ali seemed to be on set a great deal, so he obviously felt the film portrayed him well. There is a behind the scenes feature - this is rather pointless though, because it literally shows scenes being filmed without any commentary. Then there is a collection of cast and crew 'soundbites' - these involve clips of the relevant person talking for a few minutes about their role in the film. Finally, there's the trailer. To be honest, I don't think the special features merited their own disc.
I really didn't expect to enjoy this film very much. However, it really did surpass my expectations - and that is coming from a non-fan of boxing. If you know a lot about Muhammad Ali and have a set idea as to how the film should go, you may be disappointed. Otherwise, I really think this film is worth watching, despite the length. I was left with the feeling that I had watched something really worth seeing. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.
Running time: 157 minutes
Ali is a film which shows part of the life of Cassius Clay. I have seen parts of this film before but as I saw it for a bargain price I decided to get it and actually watch the whole thing.
The film starts with Cassius going for a shot at the title fight which he does win and soon becomes the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. He is close friends with a man called Malcolm X who is a black Muslim and has talked Cassius Clay into converting to become a Muslim like him. Malcolm X is not very well liked as he is a known trouble maker. Cassius Clay is accepted as a Muslim and soon has the new name of Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali is now champion of the world and is more than happy to use his fame to put across is political views and how the black Americans should stand up for themselves and demand to be treated as equals.
Muhammad goes on to win more fights and he soon become undefeated but his luck is about to change when he is enlisted in the US Army which he refuses to do so now faces a very lengthy court case and the possibility of 5 years in prison. As a result of the court action he looses his boxing licence, all his money and he is unable to travel to fight. He soon finds himself skint and in need of help. He looses his title which has now gone to Smokin Joe Fraser and he is not happy about this.
Will Ali be able to win his court case and ultimately win back his title or is he now destined to be a boxing has been?
Firstly I would like to say what a fantastic job Will Smith did with the role of Ali. He played the part extremely well and I was believing in the character. Even my hubby commented on what a great job he did with the boxing matched and how he had Ali's moves down to a fine art. He really did do a lot of research for this role which did pay off. I thought the character did come across as arrogant but I know a lot of it was his speeches to his fellow competitors but also I found he was very big headed towards his family, friends and wife which I had not before thought he was like.
The supporting actors and actresses in the film were also very good and added more depth to the film and showed what a good support group he had, well until things went wrong for him and then certain members deserted him.
The setting for the film was the 1960's and I though that a lot of attention to detail was put into this and everything fitted in extremely well. I also liked the soundtrack which was used and I did find I was toe tapping to some of the songs as hubby did ban me from singing along!
The fight scenes were excellent and looked so realistic. I thought that a lot of time and effort was put into making these. I thought that all of the people involved had to be extremely fit and also the competitors looked extremely like the real people which they were portraying.
The DVD which I have does have some bonus material which includes:-
The Making of Ali
Behind the Scenes
Cast and Crew SoundBits
We have not had chance to watch any of these features yet but I don't fancy them anyway. Hubby says he would like to watch them so if he ever does I will get his opinion of them and update this review for you.
I managed to pick my copy up for £2.49 on EBay which I think is a bargain price as this is the 2 dick special edition. I have seen the single dick one in Tesco for just £3 which I think I a bargain price.
The running time of this film is 150 minutes which I felt was just too long. I think the film may have benefited from more about the start of his career and how he became such a good boxer and less time showing the middle parts and slightly more of the latter of his career. The film did just centred around the middle parts of his career which I was quite disappointed about. I think that the parts about his personal life which were included in the film were good as it did show a different side to him but again I think less of the parts which were shown and more of a wider time frame would have been more interesting.
The film has a certificate of 15 which think may be a bit too high and children of about 13 or 14 may enjoy this film.
I do recommend this film to any boxing fans or Will Smith fans or again any one who wants to watch a very good film.
"Ali" is a 2001 biopic directed by Michael Mann and starring Will Smith as the legendary heavyweight champion. The film begins in 1964 with Ali's upset of the apparently unstoppable Sonny Liston and takes us through to 1974 and Ali's fight against the equally daunting George Foreman in Zaire. Along the way the film explores Ali's first marriage, his conversion to the Nation of Islam, friendship with Malcom X, ban from boxing for refusing to serve in Vietnam and - of course - his great rivalry with Joe Frazier.
One of the problems with making an Ali biopic is that Ali's life was more outlandish and incredible than any film script. In a sense the subject is too big for a film and so inevitably this feels like a diluted and condensed history of the man. I remember reading an article once about how Ali took a crazy bus trip across America in the sixties to dog Sonny Liston in a still segregated United States. You could make an entire film about that one episode let alone try and cram ten years of Ali's life into two and a half hours! The other problem is that most of us are reasonably familiar with the story and life of Ali. I have countless Ali documentaries and biographies, many of his fights on tape and DVD, plus of course the Oscar winning film "When We Were Kings" and although Ali is an expensive and well made film there were times when I felt the whole thing bordered on the pointless. When Will Smith runs out Ali's lines and poems I could actually beat him to the punchlines and part of you wonders why you are watching Will Smith and Charles Shufford pretending to be Ali and Foreman when you can slip a boxing DVD or When We Were Kings in and watch the real thing as it actually happened.
As you would expect from a Michael Mann film, Ali looks great. It opens with a flashy nightclub montage and has a nice period detail. It has a good cast and the boxing scenes are shot with style and verve. Everything is in place for a great film but, surprisingly, given its subject, Ali is also slightly dull at times. Smith does a good Ali impersonation and gives an excellent performance as an actor but I can't say I ever really believed he was Muhammad Ali. He looks a bit like him - with his ears pinned back - but isn't as pretty as the real Ali was and is a bit lumbering in the boxing sequences. The real Ali in his prime was a graceful 210 pound man who could throw punches faster than most middleweights. You can't really replicate that convincingly for dramatic purposes.
The film does quite a good job in exploring the relationship between Ali and Malcom X and Ali's manager Herbert Muhammad takes a few deserved brickbats in the film. Mario Van Peebles is ok but has a thankless task as Malcom X. If you catch an old clip of Malcom X being interviewed you find yourself becoming slightly entranced by the quiet force of his personality and it's very difficult for any actor to get close to this. Malcom's move away from the Nation and his previous beliefs and Ali's shunning of him (which he later deeply regretted) in accordance with his loyalty to the creepy Elijah Muhammad is all done with much care but if you want to learn more about this period you'd be better off reading David Remnick's book "King of the World".
Jon Voight is very good as infamous boxing commentator Howard Cosell although his make-up is a tad cartoonish. Cosell, who is dismissed as a windy know-nothing in most boxing books or articles I've read, gets off fairly lightly here. His toupee is the butt of Ali's jokes but his sense of injustice at Ali's ban from boxing, which was apparently real, is the side of Cosell that comes out most in the film. The most incredible thing about Ali was that he didn't fight during his athletic peak because of the ban. He cemented his legacy in his thirties after years out of the ring. I liked the fact that the film stressed this and showed Ali during this wilderness period - struggling to make ends meet, touring colleges to speak, vainly trying to arrange fights out of the jurisdiction of the US authorities. The sense of frustration - for Ali truly loved boxing and the spotlight - is well conveyed.
Jamie Foxx I have to say is excellent as Drew "Bundini" Brown, Ali's famous entourage cheerleader and friend. Ali's entourage were sort of like his children at times and Bundini's flawed but colourful character and mutual love for Ali comes through. Jada Pinkett Smith is also well cast as Sonji Roi, Ali's free spirited first wife, a woman with little tolerance for religious rules imposed on her by men. Ron Silver though is terribly underused as Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee. Dundee was a unique character and great trainer, a white Italian-American who survived the Nation of Islam influence and retained a warm and enduring bond with Ali. Dundee comes off in the film as casual hired help rather than Ali's lifelong friend and trainer.
Mykelti Williamson also pops up as Don King but it's hard to play Don King because the real life Don King always looks as if he's a fictional character played by an accomplished comedy actor!
James Toney, a real life boxer and former world champion, is actually pretty good as Joe Frazier. Ali and Frazier were friends for a time before their relationship soured but the film does remind you that Frazier helped Ali during his ban and offered financial assistance. Toney's crouching left-hooking style is a reasonable facsimile of Frazier in the boxing sequences. The use of real life boxers is a help in the film.
When the film moves to Zaire for Ali's fight with Foreman it does become fairly redundant thanks to the incredible 1997 documentary "When We Were Kings". Any attempt to dramatize the "Rumble in the Jungle" is now almost pointless despite the lush visuals, flashy direction and careful attempt to recreate this epic event. Dramatic licence is also taken with Ali, behind wife Belinda's back, mooching about with Veronica Porsche (Michael Michele) in Zaire and pretending she was his wife (which she later became). This incident actually happened in 1975 when he fought Frazier for a third time in Manila but was for some reason shoehorned into the Zaire section here.
I think those who are unfamilar with portions of the Ali story might find the film more interesting than boxing fans who have read or watched most of this elsewhere. If you like Will Smith you'll enjoy his performance. Although I never really believed he was Ali in the ring, the actor is amusing and captures Ali's stream of consciousness anger very well leaving courtrooms and protesting against his treatment. I'm sort of glad Hollywood gave the Ali story a go with some real money and effort simply out of respect but the end result is oddly less satisfying than one decent Ali documentary.
Despite its flaws and attempt to take too much on, Ali is certainly a well directed and suitably expensive film and worth a viewing if you haven't seen it. For an overview of the man you'd be better off reading Thomas Hauser's biography or watching When We Were Kings but "Ali" is by no means a bad film if not a great one.
I am undecided on this film. I think it is a fantastic peice of work by the director and faultless acting by will Smith. However, i wouldnt say it is a film i will watch again, and all in all, it doesnt keep you on the edge of your seat, and it is quite slow.
However, this is how it is meant to be, it is a life story, and it represents this well, giving you a real feel for the man Ali is, and getting beneath the showman ship we associate with him. The fact that it is slow also give you a great sense of grandure, you feel how big this boxer was, and all the stuff that he had to go through, with nothing but beleif that he was the best.
Will Smiths role in this film is the highlight for me. He sounds exactly like him, and how he got this big for the part i will never know! But it really is a masterful performance which makes this film deffinately worth watching. Buying I am however unsure of, as i doubt you will watch it again.
I'm sure 99% of the population of the UK know who Muhammed Ali is, I'm sure the majority can even make the connection between Cassius Clay and Muhammed Ali, but this film is so good because it scratches beneath the surface and shows why Ali was like how he was, and the struggles he went through to achieve greatness!
I would first like to pay tribute to the wonderful acting by Will Smith in the film, I imagine it was one of his toughest roles, as Ali I am sure for a young black man must have been one of the great heroes. And that really comes through, I have always loved to watch someone play their idol, much in the same way Jim Carrey is in 'Man on The Moon'.
Before I watched this film, my basic knowledge of Muhammed Ali was he was one of the greatest boxers the world had ever seen, I had never made a connection between him and any black movements or religious beliefs. But then having not grown up in America and not grown up in the 1960's then I guess their was no reason for me too.
I knew Ali had been referred too as Cassius Clay, but I didn't know why, I didn't know he was shaking off his slave name in a bid to win independence.
Ali was a name given to him by the Church of Islam, before that he had called himself 'Cassius X', as the film shows strong ties between him and Malcolm X. I suppose if you were black man in that era and you had any way to gain publicity for the civil rights movement then it was almost an obligation to be involved - and involved he way.
Ali was struck off by the Gaming Commision and was unable to fight for years, in which time the two biggest names on the scene were Joe Frazier and George Foreman, would that have been the case if Ali had not had his title revoked and allowed to box for the years in which he was in his prime, I guess we will never know!
He almost went to prison as well, after refusing to go and fight in Vietnam, this was the reason he had his boxing license taken away from him, and in this time he was damn near broke, not something you think about when you are as big as a household name as Ali was, but then if you look to recent times, Tyson is also apparantly living in a trailor.
What Smith does so well in this film is to capture the real escense of the man, because not only was he the best boxer in the world at the time, but he was one of the most charismatic. Something that is put across so very well. You begin to love Ali in a whole new sense. A feeling of injustice rises up within you to the point where when it comes to 'The Rumble in the Jungle', one of the most famous boxing matches of all time, you are there with him, taking every punch and delivering every blow, willing him on.
I would rate this as a must see film, Smiths acting talent and obvious deciation to the role is something to be seen, and it gives you much more of an insight into what the great boxer must have been like.
'Ali' is a biopic of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali (previously known by his birthname Cassius Clay) starring Will Smith and directed by Michael Mann. Mann's Ali focuses on the middle part of the Greatest's life: his dealings with Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam and his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam war. Of course there is a lot of boxing to be seen as well.
In fact it was the boxing sequences that impressed me most about this film. Mann clearly put great effort into making the fight scenes perfect; the sequences are recreated punch for punch from the original matches and the footwork too, which Muhammad Ali was so renowned for, have been copied step-by-step.
The portrayal of his personal life is no less noteworthy with his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, his friendship with the controversial Malcolm X and his abandonment of his 'slave name' Cassius Clay in favour of Muhammad Ali stirring up controversy. And at the top of his game, Ali faced the ultimate test with the change in the military draft rules, making him eligible for military induction during the Vietnam War.
Despite the fact that he could easily have agreed to a nice deal that would have meant an easy tour of duty for himself, Ali refused to submit on principle to cooperate in an unjust war for a racist nation that treated his people so poorly.
This story was definitely matched by the quality of the acting in this film. Jada Pinkett Smith, in her short role as Ali's first wife manages to shine, Jamie Foxx injects well-executed humour and Jon Voight, as ever, is brilliant. But Will Smith deservedly received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the star. For the first half-hour of the film, you can't stop thinking you're watching Will Smith really pull off being Ali; after that, you forget you're watching Will Smith at all.
And it is mainly for that reason that this biopic was such a success where others fail- it seems to be an accurate portrayal of the subject's life, and is hugely interesting and entertaining.
Ali is the biopic based on the life of legendary heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali from the period 1964, where he clashed with the infamous Sonny Liston, through a decade to 1974 and the now famous Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman.
The first time I sat down to watch Ali I actually turned it off after about 15 minutes as it was nothing like what I expected. Not only did I expect a full biopic of his life from his early days but I also had become accustomed to the glitzy, highly polished biopics which Hollywood usually churns out and Ali is nothing of the sorts. Instead Ali concentrates solely on a turbulent ten year period in the fighters life where he finds himself fighting for his boxing licence in the courts after refusing to go to war for America. But also, the whole film has a much rougher feel to it and at times it feels like you are watching an unedited, rough cut of a film. Saying that, I recently revisited the film and can now appreciate it fully as quite a masterful film, which although is by no means perfect, actually shows what is in my opinion a much more honest account of his life and one which doesnt need a highly polished production to deliver a powerful story.
As previously mentioned Ali just covers a small period of the boxers life, but it as a period which was one of the most turbulent. The film covers in detail his conversion to Islam, his troubled personal life which saw the failure of his marriage and also his fight for the right to box after falling foul of the law when he refused the American draft. Whilst this single decade is obviously a bit of a disappointment, especially as the years prior and post this era have been just as dramatic, it allows the film to really go into significant depth on what happened. I have to admit that I wasnt around for this era and only really know about the legend from more recent appearances and also from the countless books which chronicle his life, but it is really fascinating to see the troubles he went through. One of the best things about the film is that it disperses with the usual glitz which dominates biopics and its rawness allows the whole emphasis of the film to be on the story. It must have taken a lot of courage for director Michael Mann to not only make a film about someone who is still alive but also do it in such a manner that bucks the usual trend. Its also interesting to see the depth of Alis relationships with all those around him from Malcolm X, to other boxers and most significantly his team who helped him train. The whole film surprising manages to hit an emotional note as you see a side of Ali which was somewhat different to the public persona which many of us only know.
Of course with a film about one of the most iconic boxers of all time the film is going to have a few action sequences featuring the actual fights and training sessions. Compared to other boxing films, such as Rocky and Cinderella Man, the fight scenes feel a bit under worked, but then for me they actually fitted in with the general rawness of the film. There were very few moments when it felt like a fight was overly choreographed and there were definitely no moments of over the top posing, although watching Will Smith bring alive the Ali shuffle and his general showman ship in the ring was an absolute delight. Again I feel Michael Mann has done a brilliant job of recreating these fight sequences and some of the clever camera angles he uses really makes you feel like you are in the middle of the ring getting smacked senseless. Likewise with the training sessions, they dont feel like they are a fitness DVD which is the usual case with boxing films, but are far more realistic, displaying the intensity and emotion of the moment rather than bulging biceps and quads. A lot of praise should also go to the numerous real boxers who were drafted in to play the parts of legendary boxers such as Sonny Liston and George Foreman. For men who are not trained actors they did a brilliant job of convincing me that they were the great men themselves and I am sure using these real boxers aided in making the fights more realistic.
One of the most memorable things to come out of this film is that Will Smith is more than capable of serious acting, quite a feat seeing that not only is Ali one of the most iconic sportsmen of the last century but also in the fact that he is still alive. I did wonder how effective Smith would be at playing a heavy weight boxer seeing that prior to the film he always looked slightly scrawny. But not only is his performance first rate but the amount of training he must have undertook to build his frame up to that of Alis is impressive in its own right. When I say that not once do you feel that you are watching Will Smith perform is an understatement, it is as if Ali himself was appearing in the film. From his prowess in the ring, to his jive talking, poetic put downs of other boxers everything captured the legend of Muhammad Ali at his best. But it is not just Smith which makes this film so memorable, and performances from Jamie Foxx as well as Jon Voight really help make this such a great film. In fact I was unaware that Jon Voight actually appeared in the film as boxing commentator Howard Cossell and unless you knew this you really wouldnt recognize him. That is one of they keys to this film, even though it has some very prominent actors you never once feel that you are watching the actors but the actual men themselves. Special mention should go to Mario Van Peebles, who again I didnt realise appeared in the film, but puts in a stunning performance as Malcolm X.
If I had one real criticism of Ali is that at times it does drag its feet, and at over 2 and a half hours long you do feel every moment of it. Whilst I can understand that director Michael Mann was aiming to make a different sort of biopic, one which worked on fact rather than poetic licence, it felt at times that some scenes were dragged out longer than necessary resulting in it losing some of the intensity of the drama. One such scene which although highly moving, is Ali running through the African ghettos in the lead up to the legendary Rumble in the Jungle, everything about it built up to a nice emotional high but then it wne ton for about 2 minutes too much. Despite this I still feel Mann has done a remarkable job of making a film which really puts you in touch with the focal character rather than attempting to woo you with Hollywood glam.
> Film Summary
For me Ali is a very memorable film, one which manages to touch me no matter how many times I watch, with its raw, sometimes mean and moody production it differs from the majority of Hollywood Biopics and in doing so paints a much grittier picture than we have become accustomed to. Whilst it may not be everyones cup of tea, it is well worth a viewing for two reasons. Firstly you learn a lot more about this Boxing legend than you would expect and also you get to witness one of Will Smiths best performances so far and one which I feel should have won him an Oscar.
> DVD Features
This DVD package comes on two discs with the first disc featuring the film, whilst the second disc holds the bonus features. Sadly on this version there is no audio commentary which later appeared on the Directors Cut.
Behind the scenes This is purely a montage of behind the scenes footage, which heavily focuses on Will Smith and Jon Voight. Whilst slightly disappointing in the fact that it is purely a montage with no information on the making of the film, it is interesting to see that many of the actors stayed in character even when not filming. At just over 10 minutes long it is quite enjoyable and the adlib verbal sparring between Smith and Voight as they stay in character is very funny.
The Making of Ali This is a much more substantial feature and at just under half an hour packs a lot in. Made in the usual style of film footage, behind the scenes footage and interviews it comes over thankfully as informative rather than a promotional piece and focuses quite a bit on the choice of Will Smith to play Ali and his transformation physically. Some of the best bits of this feature are when Muhammad Ali himself is on set watching the fighting scenes and despite his crippling illness still interacting with Will Smith. Despite focussing mainly on Smith it does deliver a lot of information on other aspects of the film. One negative is that some of the scenes which appear in the behind the scenes feature are repeated here.
Cast & Crew Soundbites This feature, or actually a set of 17 features, are small edited interviews with key personnel from the cast through to the crew which can only be watched one at a time rather than all at once. Whilst some of the interviews are definitely more interesting than others there is a lot of repetition of information which came across in the Making of Ali feature. Probably one of the best interviews is with Michael Mann where he explains that he didnt want to make a film which idolizes Ali but one which has a really authentic, realistic feel to it.
Also on the DVD is the trailer for the film which actually rounds this off quite nicely.
> DVD Quality
This is quite a difficult film to judge on picture quality as the whole film has a lot of rawness about it, but any problems with the picture I feel are from the original print rather than issues with the transfer. Where there seems to be problems are scenes which are filmed indoors where the image has a slight softness about it but then I am sure this was intentional. Otherwise colours are solid and the whole thing has an authentic feel about it. Audio wise the film is very impressive and during the boxing sequences the way the sound uses all the channels makes you feel like you are in the ring getting punched about. Otherwise, dialogue mainly comes through the front channel and the soundtrack spreads itself out nicely between the left and right fields, although at times this feels slightly week balanced against the dialogue.
> DVD Summary
Although the Behind the Scenes feature is amusing and The Making of is informative the quantity and quality of the bonus features is disappointing. My main criticism is that a lot of the interviews and clips are used numerous times making the bonus features feel very repetitive. Also the lack of an audio commentary is a huge disappointment and makes this DVD package feel quite week. The audio and sound quality is satisfactory although I feel that the way the film was shot and edited makes it feel slightly raw.
> Price & Availability
www.amazon.co.uk : £6.97
> Technical Details
Certificate: 15 (Contains some swearing and fighting)
Duration: 156 mins
Year of Release: 2001
Genre: Biopic, sport, drama
DVD Release: 2002
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Number of Discs: 2
Director(s): Michael Mann
Writer(s): Gregory Allen Howard (story), Stephen J. Rivele (screenplay)
Cast: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nona Gaye
© Christianfilm October 2007
This is a movie only review and I will not make any references to the DVD apart from saying that it is available for around £7.
Ali is directed by Michael Mann and was originally released in 2001. The film covers a 10 year period of Muhammed Alis boxing career, 1964-1974, but overall seems to be rushed. As a result we only touch on the events and do not get a real chance to look in-depth which is a shame. Will Smith plays the part of Ali and does an excellent job in my opinion in recreating the true character that Muhammed Ali was in terms of boxing ability and arrogance. The movie contains a number of boxing matches in a highlight kind of format but only shows the main fights during this 10 year period; title bouts such as Rumble in the Jungle.
The film picks up showing Alis first title bout where he wins the heavy weight championship from Sonny Liston (1964). The next hour of the movie shows Ali converting to the Islamic faith followed by his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War resulting in a jail term Also removing his boxing belt. Shortly after he is cleared and starts back on the road to the heavy weight championship where we see fights with Joe Frasier and George Foreman. Throughout the film we are introduced to the friends in Alis life such as trainer Angelo Dundee (played by Ron Silver), and the Bundini (played by Jamie Foxx). Among the many women in his life we also get to see his first wife Sonji Roi (played by Jada Pinkett Smith), second wife Belinda Boyd (played by Nona M. Gaye), and to-be third wife Veronica Porsche (played by Michael Michele) busy man!
In places the movie seems rather slow paced which is a shame because the acting by the main characters in good and the boxing matches are exciting to watch; even though many will know the outcome. Overall Ali is not on the same level as other boxing movies such as Rocky and Raging Bull but is a fascinating insight into the life of Muhammed Ali and is worth watching for any hardcore fans or people who are just interesting in learning more about Muhammed Ali as a man and a fighter.
Director: Michael Mann
Main Cast: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nona M. Gaye, Michael Michele, Joe Morton
Run Time: 2 Hours 36 minutes (approx)
Release Year: 2001
The movie adaptation of Muhammed Ali's life went through a few years of off and on sparring in the Hollywood ring before Micheal Mann stepped up to tell the story of probably the greatest sports legend the world has ever seen. Now I'm a big fan of Mann's films such as Heat, Manhunter etc so I was looking forward to what he would do with this. After all this was a film that Barry Sonnenfeld was close to directing but sadly there wasn't room for a giant mechanical spider in the movie. Where do you start by trying to put Ali's story on the screen in under three hours. Well the task is almost impossible so Mann concentrates on telling the bul part which starts with Ali's first heavyweight championship win and finishes with the legendary 'Rumble in the Jungle' with George Foreman. Along the way we have Ali's marriages and his flirtation with possible jail time for being a draft dodger due to his beliefs. Mann's partner is all of this is Will Smith who goes from being the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Ali. The result could have been awful but this is the film that defines Smith as an actor rather than just a rap star and entertainer. This is one of those roles where Smith disappears and if you hadn't known that Will Smith was in the film then you probably wouldn't even notice. It's a great performance and well worth the Oscar nomination, I'd even go as far as saying it was better than the showy performance from Denzel Washington in Training Day, the actor who won the award. Smith is joined by an able cast of supporting actors. Jon Voight disappears under make-up to plat Howard Cosell and the scenes between him and Smith are probably some of the best in the movie. Again Voight was Oscar nominated and rightly so. The likes of Jamie Foxx, Jeffrey Wright, Mario Van Peebles and Ron Silver also come along to take on the roles of pivitol people in Ali's life. The casting of the film is very good as it cas
ts known actors but lets them disappear into characters. Mann directs the film as you'd expect. It's masterfully shot all the way through with good performances. The boxing scenes are electric and large parts of the film are dedicated to them, but this film also concentrates on the quieter moments and tells the story with a mix of history and music to get you into the period and mood. But for all this there is the films ultimate stumbling block and it's that the makers can't really be faulted for. Ali's life is far too coloured and interesting to fit into a movie, there's just far too much to tell and not enough time and audience patience to tell it. For that reason the film always seems to movie too quickly from one thing to another and getting to know the characters along the way is the thing that suffers. You really have to have some knowledge of Ali to fully understand what's happening. For example the death of Martin Luther King is glossed over before even being touched on, perhaps it's something that didn't need to be in the movie becasue it it shown as having no real affect. I think the problem is that the focus in the movie is changed quite a bit. It's as if one moment the makers decided to concentrate on the fighting side but then dithered over whether Ali's private life was more important but then thought that Ali's life was a metaphor for the black's struggle for equality in an America where the power was held by the whites. It's a shame because this is an entertaining movie full of good things, I was never bored in the 2 1/2 hours of the running time. However it's just a story that really can't be done justice to in such a short time. The story of Ali is better told in the many books and in the footage of real life. Perhaps this would have been better suited to a 'Band of Brother's style series. You have to respect Smith and Mann for really stepping up and
giving it a go. They've delivered something that is respectable but ultimately flawed.
I am too young to remember Mohammed Ali in his prime. All I see is a weak and frail man savaged by his illness. However his catchphrases are famous, taunting opposition, changing from his slave name to Nation of Islam and refusing to fight in Vietnam. Apparently he could also box a bit. Ali does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a biography of one of the greatest sportsmen and characters in sport ever. It follows the real life of Mohammed Ali through a decade from 1964 to 74 and includes all the famous events in his life, bouts with Sonny Liston and George Foreman. What a job it must have been to do make a film about such a person. The film begins with Cassius Clay as the young and big-mouthed challenger who surprisingly beats Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship of the world and especially the peoples champion. Vietnam, Malcolm X and losing several years of his career due to Nam before ending with the ‘rumble in the jungle’ beating George Foreman. The main problem with the story line is each event is just too famous. I know all this and I was not around then and not a particularly large fan of boxing. The film could do very little to surprise me, and could only disappoint when they left things out or did not do them as well. Still the film was well done, all the famous ‘float like a butterfly’, ‘what’s my name’ and so on were well delivered and the film did have a lot of class about it. Ali’s personal life was well done, his four wives and troubled parent relations and friends. It was a good enough film, though with such a big and well known life so much could have gone wrong. It was more of a fact that they managed not to screw it up too badly than did it well. Will Smith does a surprisingly good role as Ali, though is helped by a great cast around him. He gets in all of Ali’s charisma and wise cracks convincingly and with spirit, without adding any of his own touc
hes of rap or 90s language. He also has obviously been in training for this, bulking up and looking the part for a heavyweight. He has also learned how to box, some realistic scenes though not a pure boxing flick concentration on the moves. Jon Voight plays commentator and sports presenter Howard Cosell, he and Ali enjoy several exchanges comically and also supports him in worse moments. Mario Van Peebles plays Malcolm X who has a big part in the film and Ali’s three wives are also in, Jamie Foxx as his first wife Bundini Brown standing out. The whole lot are really good, there are no weak links and Smith especially excels. ‘Ali’ gets political in places, depicting his friendship with Malcolm X and him changing his name to reject his slave given Cassius Clay to the black Nation of Islam Mohammed Ali. Malcolm X’s assassination is depicted quite brutally. Martin Luther King is also shown and the whole ideas of Nation of Islam coming with Christianity and Judaism are shown to show how much of a part they were of Ali’s life. Ali’s refusal to go and fight in Vietnam comes up with the line for my title and it is a fair reflection of what he believed and the consequences that came about. When he was refused licences no one wanted a part of him, compared to when he was the champ, and especially how he was screwed by his white management team who left him down after he became the highest grossing boxer ever. This is a long film, running time 150 minutes or two and a half hours. There is more than enough to keep you interested though and boredom is not a problem. The film is rated a 15, the boxing scenes are no worse than any others, some violence out of the ring and actually very little bad language. At over two and a half hours you may start to lose some interest. The film has a tendency to spend too long going through some bits tediously then jumps through others too fast. It could also suffer like many spec
ialist sports films. People who don’t like the sport don’t understand it and those that love the sport pick it to bits as unrealistic. Ali does not do any of that. It is not setting out to be a pure look at his boxing talents and as a result does not end up as a boxing classic like Raging Bull. This is a more detailed look at the whole of Ali’s life and interesting to watch. The fight scenes are great. It would be a very hard job to do a flawless depiction of Ali, and there are problems. Some parts are missed, especially fights, it loses some of its interest and a bit drawn out. Overall a good film. It is not a clear boxing film, and perhaps does not get the real emotions that this could have done. It is still very enjoyable and has style. You will probably have to have some sort of interest in boxing or Ali to really enjoy, but it is an interesting film. I was torn between three and four stars, as it is better than average and a good quality but far from perfect.
Acclaimed director Michael Mann (The Insider, Heat, The Last of the Mohicans), delivers a visually arresting portrait of one of the greatest athletes and sporting heroes of all time in Ali. Will Smith portrays a man whose wit and athletic genius, defiant rage and inner grace mirrored one of the most turbulent times in Twentieth Century America. In a screenplay by Eric Roth and Michael Mann, Ali captures the feverish excitement as well as the political unrest between 1964 and 1974, when the then Cassius Clay shocked the world with a triumphant boxing victory, which began his unparalleled reign at the top of the boxing profession. Mann's beautifully crafted film depicts a charismatic Ali, whose grace, speed and power were matched in and out of the ring, as he became a leading civil rights activist, went through three marriages and famously refused to be inducted into the US Army. Will Smith embodies Ali with a familiar ease and is supported by a cast that includes Jamie Foxx as Ali's talisman Drew 'Bundini' Brown; Jon Voight as commentator Howard Cosell; Ron Silver as trainer Angelo Dundee; Jeffrey Wright as the photographer Howard Bingham; Mykelti Williamson as promoter Don King and Mario Van Peebles as the political activist Malcolm X. The source of the sheer energy that propels the movie "Ali" is all too visible, courtesy of the extra features on the double-disc DVD release. TECHNICAL FEATURES Picture Sensational seems an adequate word to describe the transfer to DVD. Sound You get a choice of either Dolby or DTS 5.1 mixes to accompany the movie. The DTS version carries extra punch and better crowd effects, but only by a whisker over its absorbing Dolby counterpart. SPECIAL FEATURES Making of "Ali" This is a 27-minute HBO Special, and unlike some of their cheesier efforts, it's an entertaining and revealing look at the production of an unusual Hollywood
blockbuster. Will Smith is in no doubt of his task, admitting, "It definitely scares me when you're going to take on a living icon." We get to see plenty of the icon, too, as he drops in to look at both the filming and Smith at work. His trainer and director Michael Mann discuss Smith's year in training for the role. The consensus was that he should train properly as a boxer so, for a year, every day involved six hours of workouts. Will's commitment is impressive to watch, especially when you realise it was a role he'd been turning down for years for fear of not being able to do it justice. But once Ali told him that Smith was "nearly as pretty as him", he decided to take it on. Behind-the-Scenes There are 12 minutes of unedited B-roll footage, which includes Will Smith discussing and filming fight scenes. Cast and Crew Soundbites In this gallery you'll find short interview extracts from the cast and crew. Some of these are used in the 'Making of' documentary but there is extra material to be found here. Michael Mann talks about taking a true angle on the story, while Will Smith discusses the harsh reality of realising the task he was taking on. Many of the other contributors offer their views on what makes Muhammad Ali special, and on how Smith is able to mirror the man's charm and charisma. Additional Extra Features Also on disc two is a trailer. The film is rated 15
Could Will Smith pull it off? Even if he could would it be a good film? The answer is yes, Will Smith is a sensation. Who would have believed that that goofy, lanky, smart ass teenager in the Fresh Prince could have turned in a performance that is not only acting like Muhammed Ali, but being Ali. Will Smith may be the reason to see this film, but there is a hell of a lot more to it. Firstly, i went to see it with my girlfriend, and she knows nothing about boxing. She loved it. So don't be worried if you don't like boxing, you don't have to. The film follows the legendary boxers life over a 10 year period, where he wins the World heavyweight championship, becomes friends with Malcolm X, gets stripped of the title for not accepting his draft for the U.S army, and then wins his title back against the much younger george Foreman. The film, directed by Michael Mann(Heat, The Insider) is sensational in its composition, particularly demonstrated at the start where scenes of Ali growing up, training to fight, and running are intercut with a soul singer in a smokey club filled with ladies. The atmosphere is spot on throughout the film. The film strongly benefits from focusing on only 10 years of his life, giving the essence of Ali as a cultural icon. The acting from the supporting cast is also excellent, particularly from Jamie Foxx as one of Ali's corner men, and John Voight (unrecognisable under all of the excellent makeup) as a commentator and Ali's friend. The boxing scenes are also exceptionally realistic (most of them are real as Will Smith trained for months and actually took and threw the punches, most of which actually connected), and particularly the final fight which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. These fights make Raging Bull look highly choreographed. The only dissapointment is the speed with which some of the issues are glossed over, both Malcolm X and his refusal to be drafted are not given enoug
h attention. However, overall this is an unmissable experience, one of the worlds greatest cultural figures portrayed by some of the best acting you are ever likely to see.
Will Smith pulls off one of the most challenging roles of his career as the boxing great Muhammed Ali. The film focuses on Ali's protest against the war in Vietnam and his refusal to be part of it, and eventually follows him to Zaire for the infamous 'Rumble in the Jungle'. Also stars a much made-over Jamie Foxx, directed by Michael Mann.