Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ali (Michael Mann)

A physically convincing Will Smith as Muhammad Ali.

Film Review Archive (date seen: November 15, 2010)

A good biopic for a 'great' icon (which of course connotes that it's not good enough), and although it runs in an epic 2 and a half hours, I still felt that it's too short to really capture his momentous spirit, both on mic, in ring, or alone. And with it climaxing and ending on the "Rumble in the Jungle" pay per view in Zaire, it has furthered the fact that with all its unrelenting build-up, the film has reached nowhere.

Though I think that the Ali-Foreman bout in Africa is a great way to end a biography film on a high, optimistic note, personally, I think it's better to show the latter days of Ali's career, and because I'm a Filipino, I'm a sucker for some cinematic depiction of the Araneta "Thrilla in Manila" fight. Scanning through mainstream African-American talents in Hollywood, Will Smith really is the perfect choice to play both the loud mouth exterior and the introspective interior. His physical stature's a given, and with Mr. Smith having some rap music background, his tongue can easily catch up with Ali's improvised, rhyming phonetics aimed to discredit his ring opponents.

"Ali", though thematically unsure especially at the last moments, is more than a boxing biopic film. It treads not just the literal and inner battles of Ali, but also his strong stance against racial inequality and his political viewpoints that led to his refusal of being drafted to the Vietnam War and the subsequent stripping of his title.

Before, as I've watched existing footages of Ali and his rambunctious antics, I always thought of him as an arrogant athlete not worthy of his title. But then, after watching this film, with his personal beliefs all exposed, in a time of racial tension and religious prejudice, he merely stood up for what he thought to be worth standing for. And almost 50 years later, Ali still is one of the ultimate representatives of a great, defiant spirit; that which would not falter in the face of an overwhelming adversity, and I'm not even talking about Frazier or Foreman. Many boxers have since imitated his flamboyance, but only a few of them knew what it was really all about.


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