*** Official ALI Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mario Bartel, Dec 25, 2001.

  1. Mario Bartel

    Mario Bartel Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow, I can't believe there's no Ali review thread yet! C'mon, holiday or not, a new Michael Mann movie, I'm there for the first matinee!

    Honestly, for the first two hours, I felt terribly let down. It was as if Mann was so overwhelmed by his subject matter that he tried to tell Ali's story by skipping a stone over the pond of the Champ's life. We get a bunch of scenes: Ali as boy; Ali as new champion; Ali as newfound Muslim; Ali as disgraced Muslim; Ali as philanderer; Ali as draft-dodger. Some are better than others, many of them run on way too long. "Focus!" I wanted to cry out (literally, because I noticed an awful lot of shots slightly back-focussed; kinda distracting given how tight Mann likes to compose his shots).

    But, for me, the afternoon was redeemed by the last hour, which is built around Ali's title fight against George Foreman, in Zaire, the infamous "Rumble in the Jungle." For anyone who has seen the documentary from a few years ago about the same fight, When We Were Kings, Mann brings us inside the controversy and theatrics surrounding that seminal event and makes them seem hyper-real. The staging, design and attention to detail to recreate that fight are impeccable. The choreography for the fight scenes is perfect, the camera work is exhilerating. I thought it some of the most thrilling filmmaking I've ever seen.

    Too bad Mann couldn't have put some of that energy into the first two-thirds.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for Ali. Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues, I have designated an Official Discussion Thread which can be found at this link.
    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    While watching the first 15-20 minutes of this film, I had a flashback in my mind when I was eight years old and seeing the back page of the New York Daily News with the headlines of Cassius Clay winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World. That was only the beginning for me as far as flashbacks because I could back track my life at several stages as different events of this film unfolded on the screen. Well, I thought the film was pretty good but it could have been better with more focus on Ali as a man and competitor. The performances were excellent with kudos to Smith, Foxx, Voight, and Gaye who played Ali's third wife. I just wished the film explore the details of Ali a little more in regard to his relationships with his other wives, Angelo Dundee, Malcolm X, Joe Frazier, and a few other people. However, I'm glad they told some of the story behind the special relationship between Ali and Cosell. If I had to give the film a rating then I would give it three stars out of four. The potential was there to film a great movie about a great athlete but the effort fell a little short. The one thing I'm really sorry about is for people too young to remember what a great personality and showman this man was before his affliction. The sporting world and boxing could really use him right now!

    Crawdaddy
     
  4. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    I saw this 11:30 yesterday morning.
    When it ended I said "That should have been longer" I didnt even realize 3 hours had gone by.
    3 hours and still SO MUCH was missing, but I liked it.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    Ali
    A disappointing look at his life/career. After watching this movie, I felt like I learned nothing about him and still don't know the real him.
    Will Smith pulls off Ali pretty well. Actually, I don't think anyone else could have done better. Plus I don't think it should be called a groundbreaking performance.
    Michael Mann's direction was pretty much of a minimal job(we've seen better from him)
    RATING=C-
     
  6. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Hope you enjoy it.
    Ali - [​IMG][​IMG] (out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] )
    Alternately dull, uninteresting and just plain "blah", Michael Mann's biopic Ali is nothing more than a 2+ hour showcase for Will Smith's uncanny Cassius Clay impersonation. But even the best impersonations in the world will grow tiresome after a few hours, and there's virtually nothing else worth experiencing in this entire belabored affair.
    After directing the phenomenal movie The Insider, filmmaker Michael Mann found himself the new "A-list" director. (He had previously directed other critical faves including The Last of the Mohicans and Heat.) With his newfound credibility (and bankability), he could have chosen any number of options for his next project. Unfortunately, Mann has seemingly decided to become a cross between Oliver Stone and Tony Scott, as his Ali is nothing more than a mish-mash of grating visuals, irritating musical sequences and a performance from Will Smith that begins as a novelty and ends as a parody.
    This film teaches you nothing about Muhammad Ali that you couldn't learn in a 4-page pamphlet. (He was arrogant. He was a fantastic boxer. He had a big mouth. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War.) Documentaries that run on A & E and ESPN Classic give you infinitely more than this bloated movie does, and these specials don't feature a seizure-inducing directorial style. Scene after ponderous scene is presented in a nausea-inspiring conflagration of pointless close-ups, out-of-focus expositions and handheld "wobble" shots. (Someone please introduce Michael Mann to some form of tripod.)
    The movie opens with Clay as a 20-some year old boxer who has a friendship with the infamous Malcolm X. This leads to one of the movie's biggest missteps: If you're going to make a biographical film, don't skimp on the background. Throughout the entire film, I was wondering "What about Clay as a boy? How did he discover his boxing talents? How did he become such close friends with Malcolm X?" THESE are thing I wanted to know. When a biopic skips right to the most famous stories, the audience is robbed of learning anything new. Mann and his three screenwriters apparently assume that we already know half of Ali's story - so they only give us the familiar half.
    Deciding to focus on Ali’s more famous exploits, Mann ultimately delivers a staccato style “greatest hits” package that would probably seem infinitely more compelling if you were simply watching Ali’s old boxing footage. From Ali’s membership in the Muslim community to his numerous boxing matches to his controversial decision to ignore the U.S. draft; if there’s a story about Ali that we already know, it’s in here. The familiarity overwhelms the entire film, since the audience learns literally nothing new about the living legend.
    The boxing sequences are uniformly murky and over-directed, as Mann opts to focus in on the most pointless sections of the action. (I think I’ve seen more of Will Smith’s right shoulder than I’ll ever need.) The constant usage of swooping camera angles and ridiculously lingering close-ups make the boxing sequences more nauseating than exciting, and these moments are the only “alive” segments of the entire movie. Particularly annoying is Mann’s penchant for letting his camera linger on the “musical segues” for about 7 minutes longer than required. In fact, ALL of the character development is delivered ham-fistedly in the first fifteen minutes while an ENDLESS Sam Cooke song is played to death.
    Will Smith does deserve some praise for delivering the best impersonation since the days of Rich Little. Smith looks, sounds and probably smells just like Ali did. Unfortunately, a strong impersonation is not the same as a strong performance. You’ll never get past the fact that it’s Will Smith “doing” Ali. Faring just as unwell is a nearly unrecognizable Jon Voight as Howard Cosell. Sporting some horrid makeup and the world’s ugliest hairpiece, Voight does manage to get Cosell’s voice and mannerisms down cold. But again, the performance is a novelty. Ron Silver does very little with the thankless role of Angelo Dundee, while Giancarlo Esposito does the best he can with the painfully underwritten role of Ali’s father. Easily the biggest standout in the cast is Jamie Foxx, an actor generally known for his comedic skills, who brings a stunning amount of weight to his role as Ali’s right hand man. Also strong (and therefore underused) is Mario Van Peebles as Malcolm X and Mykelti Williamson as Don King.
    While so many of Ali’s accomplishments are simply omitted, Mann seems more than content to include all the hoary old TV-movie clichés: Drug-addicted sidekick striving for redemption, long-suffering wife finally gets a backbone, Dad gets upset when Clay drops the family name, etc. The sequences are delivered in an alarmingly insular fashion. None of these moments add up to anything, and the movie peters out limply following a maudlin re-enactment of the famous Rumble in the Jungle bout.
    As a surprise-free ‘greatest hits’ adaptation, Ali may please hardcore fans of this fascinating pugilist. Those looking for a movie that digs a bit deeper and actually tries to offer something new, I’d recommend the terrific documentary When We Were Kings.
    As it stands, Ali is nothing more than a tired and uninspired showcase for Will Smith, a solid actor who desperately wants to win an Oscar. Unless the Academy has recently included a category for Best Impression, I don’t think this will be his year.
     
  7. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

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    When it was announced that Ali would limit its real focus on a 10 year period, from 1964-1974, I had alot of reservations. This time-frame meant that alot of what was going to be shown has already existed in the annals of video for years. Such a big deal was made that Ali was the most recognized, photographed and written about person in the world. Well, by limiting the exposure of your film to points that were already fairly well known, you are going to end up with little more than retreaded tires on a new Cadillac. Sure, it looks all shiny, but the thing that keeps it running is old and worn. So, Ali clearly had alot of hoops to jump through to make a favorable impression.
    But, impress it did. Whether it was the magnetic camera style that Mann employed in the ring, or the free floating, spiritual overview outside of it or to the extraordinary performances turned in by the whole cast...Ali found a way to side-step alot of the pot-holes and danced in poetic fashion. If you were to cross-reference the film with a title fight, it would compare quite nicely. The beginning was a feeling out process, the middle languished a bit in heavy steps and it built up to a breathless and ferocious finale. And, at the end of the bout, Ali stood tall. Did we learn anything new or ground-breaking? No. Quite possibly, we couldn't no matter what era of Ali's life was focused upon. He has been examined to death. I think Mann knew this and so he did give us a highlight reel instead...but, he made it flawlessly and with alot of power and persuasion. The jokes, the one-liners, the "poems" of Ali were all pulled off perfectly. Will Smith showed great comic timing as well as a dead-on sensiblity of Ali. He showed a reverence to the material and to the man. There were times that you could see it was Will Smith playing Ali...there were also enough times when Smith transcended his own persona and became Ali. The mannerisms, the brash and cocky attitude, the lovable people champ...he caught the spirit of it quite well.
    If I did have a fault with Ali, it was the time devoted to the Malcolm X angle. Mann seemed to place a small film within a film with regards to X. I know he was a big influence on Ali's life but I don't think we needed to be walked down the same path that Spike Lee took us before. It seemed sorrily rehashed and legless. It distracted from the main focus of the film and at times, it nearly derailed the whole movie. Mario Van Peebles was very good as X...but, there really was no reason to devote nearly as much time to his side as Mann did.
    Any faults, though, didn't nearly cost the film any merit in my eyes. It always had the perfect counter-balance to outweigh the stalled moments. For every Malcolm X scene, there were 2 riveting scenes with Jamie Foxx (who, imo, stole the entire film)...for every scene with fights with Ali's wives, there was the inspired bantering between Ali and Cosell. In the end, it all worked. The final fight scene was tremendous, a real powerhouse and it saved the third act which at times threatened to send Ali into oblivion. A very good film with great performances.
    Ali [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Bruce
     
  8. Scott Burke

    Scott Burke Second Unit

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    I really enjoyed this movie alot. I thought that it was very well acted and a good overview of ali's life. I knew going in there was no way to put years of life into a 2 1/2 hour movie. I enjoyed it immensely. I was also glad that it was by columbia/tristar because I know it will get a good DVD release!!
     
  9. Howard Williams

    Howard Williams Supporting Actor

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    I just got back from seeing "Ali". I wanted to like it but there just wasn't much to it. It was pretty much just a rehash of everything I already knew about him, and I'm no Ali expert. Not much to talk about. No points to ponder. No insights into who this guy really is. Nothing special. Seems like a poor choice for someone like Mann, one of the few that can probably get any picture he wants made.
     
  10. AndyDL

    AndyDL Stunt Coordinator

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    Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Being a big fan of "The Insider", I ran to the theatres to see this one. I was dissappointed, unfortunately.
    Too long. They did not explain much. Seems like there was a lot of "filler". The slow motion shots of Ali running with the african music playing --> it goes on FOREVER.
    Will Smith gave an EXCELLENT performance, but the movie just wasn't there.
    Mildly entertaining.
     
  11. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    This was a strange film. The camera work is mesmerizing, I found myself just staring at the screen awaiting each and every scene. But I can't really recommend it for anyone that has an interest in Ali. You'd do better with various documentaries on Ali, or even the ESPN Classic "ABC Wide World of Sports" episodes with Ali and Cosell that was recently on 2 Saturdays ago.

    Will Smith was a miss on getting Ali down. His delivery was just not right, the voice wasn't low enough nor was his delivery like Ali. It was simply Will Smith trying his best to spout off lines said by Ali, but without the charm and charisma of Ali.

    Jon Voight was pretty bad as Howard Cosell, didn't even look like Cosell, nor sound like him, the trademark Cosell enunciation was lost on Voight.

    The actual fight footage of Ali boxing is more compelling than the filmed fight footage, but I wished they'd end the film with the 3rd Ali-Frazier fight, that was an incredible fight, the Ali-Foreman was a bit too gimmicky to fully appreciate the boxing genius of Ali.

    The whole deal with Malcolm X had little impact on me, and the depiction of the Muslim nation treatment of Ali smelled of a strange form of slavery, ironic.

    So, while some of you might enjoy watching the film, you don't come out without much after almost 3 hours with Ali, and that's a shame.

    I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of C+.
     
  12. Rob Varto

    Rob Varto Supporting Actor

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    The acting was great... Will Smith had me believing his was the champ. Jon Voight was AWESOME as Howard Cosell as well. The film itself was a little drawn out on some aspects that didn't quite need it and didn't have enough substance on those areas that did need it. For example, the opening song was ridiculously long and felt like it took forever to get to the first fight. The same was true for his "jog" in Africa. I know this was an opportunity for him to reflect on what he meant to the masses but did they need to spend 15 minutes on this part and not explain what a womanizer he was but for a bit part and some trite storyline at the end?

    It was like one minute he was arrested for draft dodging and the very next scene he has a 3 year old daughter!?
     
  13. Tom-G

    Tom-G Screenwriter

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    I learned nothing new of Muhammed Ali after screening this film. If you take away the boxing matches, you get a very unintersting Cliff's Notes version of the life of Muhammed Ali. We see him training, rhyming and boxing, but the film never captures the charisma that Muhammed Ali had. I didn't live through the Ali era, but from the clips I've seen, Ali was incredibly charismatic and someone very interesting. He dominated his sport with ferocity. The film portrays none of those characteristics.

    Will Smith was pretty much just being himself. It was a good effort and I like Will Smith. At times, he sounded and looked like the former champ, but at other times, he was just Will Smith. Jon Voight is almost unrecognizable as Howard Cosell. And Jamie Foxx showed that he isn't pigeon-holed in the comedy genre.

    I would have liked this film much more if I could have walked away learning more about the former Cassius Clay. Unfortunately, it plays more as a tribute to him rather than a biography.

    Michael Mann is dependable, but he missed the mark with his latest effort.
     
  14. steve jaros

    steve jaros Second Unit

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    Ali was a major disappointment. The films' scattershot approach to Ali's life and career meant that it not only skipped key events, but failed to capture the "feel" of the Ali era. When i was a kid, Ali wasn't just the most famous athlete, he was the biggest entertainment star of any kind on the planet - far bigger than, say, Tiger Woods is today.

    The movie completely failed grasp that larger-than-life persona.
     
  15. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

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    Cinematically, intellectually, and emotionally, Ali is boring. Will Smith and director Michael Mann had a chance to address the world on the deifying of celebrity, and instead settle for a clothesline rundown of Muhammed Ali’s life from 1964 to 74, delivered without ambition or interest. Smith (an undervalued actor) copes well within the film’s fragmented storytelling. But the movie doesn’t allow Ali to remain more than an enigma–he’s barely a personality, much less a character. The episodic storytelling is both confusing (particularly concerning the immediate result of the boxer’s Vietnam draft evasion) and incoherent (Ali’s first wife Sonji Roi, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is introduced as a prominent character, before suddenly disappearing from the film). Despite Mann’s TV pedigree, his past movies, from Manhunter to The Insider, have been audacious works of visual filmmaking. There’s nary a shot in Ali that means anything. The handheld, documentary-like approach prefers the immediacy of primetime news to using image to actually say something. The raw facts of the heavyweight champion’s life are already ingrained into public consciousness–they’re’s even chronicled in numerous documentary films. Ali is so preoccupied with realism, it neglects to have a thesis.
     

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