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The Biggest Modern Day Character Challenge I can imagine...
wise4918 February 2007
Some people never liked Ali. He is one of those characters who is so strong, most people are forced to either love him despite his weaknesses or hate him. He was one figure in American history who never really needed anybody.

He was a conscientious objector against the Viet Nam war, yet he is honored by presidents of the nation he refused to capitulate with in crimes against humanity. His story is that vital to America.

When Ali was still a teenager, he tried his best to prove his personal excellence in a society prejudiced against black people. He won the boxing gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960, yet he came home to Louisville and still wasn't "good enough" buy a sandwich at a white restaurant, because he was black.

He then decided if the gold medal wasn't good enough for America, then it wasn't good enough for him. At this point in his life, when he had nothing else; he took the gold medal and threw it in the river.

He observed the wrestler, Gorgeous George, and admired the way he used the negative energy generated by those who disapproved of him as fuel to become the top attraction and make fools of all those who were against him. He wanted to make people boo him. He proclaimed himself as more beautiful than any creature on the planet. He told the world he was the greatest who ever lived. The more they booed him, the more energy it gave him.

He didn't have a mentor or a manager. He assembled a group of Louisville investors to bankroll him, all by himself. He knew exactly what he wanted from the world, reached out and took it. He made a crown out of it. Nobody gave him anything, and nobody can ever take that away.

He discarded the name of a great white civil rights leader during the civil war and reasoned that if he was really free to be what HE was, then he should take a name that he thought was a natural black person's name. It didn't make sense for others who came before him to fight and win the rights to do whatever they wanted, if they were then going to do nothing but turn around and say "Thank You". He decided in order to validate the fight for freedom, his role was to be free.

Muhammad Ali is played by the maybe the only person in the universe who would dare to even attempt it and he succeeds marvelously; not just in a marginal way, but in a big, big way.

This film isn't just swagger, or an imitation of Ali. This is a deep, sensitive, poignant, and romantic story about one of the greatest public figures of the twentieth century. This man truly is a poet and he's lived the life of a poet. To a great extent, Muhammad Ali made his life a manifesto of truth about the American experience. Of all the stories of the twentieth century in America, this was one of the most important ones to tell.

This film has characters galore: from Jamie Foxx as Bundini Brown, who keeps chanting "float like a butterfly, sting like a beeee!" when everyone in the world thought Ali was going to die at the hands of Sonny Liston; Jada PinkettSmith as Ali's devoutly religious and adoring first wife; MichaelMichele playing Veronica Porche, a beautiful jet set model with whomAli had an affair, to a strong performance by Mario Van Peebles as Ali's conscience; Malcolm X, who forces Ali to think against himself and his adoring Black Muslim following in the interests of right and wrong.

This film has irony, choreography, conflict, humor, drama; and accurately portrays the highest highs of any public figure I've seen in my lifetime, as well as some of the most bitter defeats.

This is about male psychology. This is about female psychology. This is about a religious movement in America. This is about a culture in America and many cultures in America and their struggles to live together and treat each other right and fairly, while trying to do the right thing as concerns their own conscience.

The most glaring weaknesses of any sports film ever made are in the sport scenes themselves. This is the strongest point of this film and also makes it the greatest sports film ever made.

I've been a boxing fan since I was eleven. I was a part of crowds who gathered around Muhammad Ali before he became champion. I know what he looks like face to face. I've watched his boxing films dozens of times, and I'll tell you that the scenes in this movie are perfect reenactments of what actually happened in the ring. This couldn't have been done in less than dozens of takes per scene. They throw punches exactly like the fighters in the real fights. They're in the same part of the ring when they throw those punches. They react to the punches the same way. They even get knocked down in the correct parts of the ring in exactly the same way as the fighters who were in the original fight.

I'm not going to comment on whether it should have won an Oscar for best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best direction, best photography, best choreography, or other features in the film. Maybe it's better that it didn't win those awards in that year because this film is bigger than any year.

This is the sports film that all others will be judged by from here on out by anyone with any sense of realism and art in movies.

This is one for the ages.
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Rather Boring Bio of Muhammad Ali
evanston_dad26 July 2010
Michael Mann is a very hit-and-miss director for me. His movies either blow me out of the water ("The Insider," "Heat"), or they leave me cold ("Miami Vice," "Public Enemies"). Unfortunately, "Ali" belongs to the latter category.

Mann's filmmaking is always very assured, so when his movies miss, I'm never exactly sure why. There's just something boring about "Ali." It tells Muhammad Ali's story, and it does so with what could be mistaken for passion, but it just felt rote and lifeless to me, and far too long.

Will Smith and Jon Voight were honored with Academy Award nominations for playing Ali and Howard Cosell, respectively, but clearly I'm not the only one to be underwhelmed by the film, as it bombed with audiences and couldn't even crack 7.0 here at IMDb.

Grade: B-
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This could and should have been much better...
buiger16 September 2007
Average movie. What was best in this film (and that was really good) was the Sound, The Soundtrack and the Camera. All of these where at least worthy of a nomination, if not more.

On the contrary, the screenplay was totally lacking (I think the Director knew this, hence the very frequent and prolonged musical interludes...) and the dialogs empty, somehow incomplete. In spite of another great performance by Will Smith, the characterization is also sketchy to say the least, we never really get to understand the main characters, their motivations, the reasons for their actions, and therefore can never really identify. All in all, the movie feels superficial, there is no real 'depth' to it. Younger audiences who are not familiar with the actual occurrences 30 years ago will be totally at a loss watching this film. I must say that even I was lost at times (and I actually lived during the period).
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Meet the man behind the gloves and the poetry
mstomaso18 July 2005
Muhammad Ali is a heroic character with legendary wit, humanity, and boxing skill. Always a fighter and always a lover, Ali's life is a subtle and clever story of dignity, strength, and compassion. And Ali himself wrote that story. This film profoundly reminds me of an autobiography Ali wrote several years ago with the help of a friend. Never afraid to do what needed to be done to get where he wanted to go, Ali was never a stranger to controversy, flambuoyance, acid wit, and an outspoken promotion of truth - even when most of his own fans couldn't see it. This film captures the champ's many battles, not the least of which are the internal battles he wages with himself over politics, his ego, money and his own destructive patterns in relationships with women. But thankfully, it does so in a respectful way which does not compromise the man's heroism, nor does it spare the audience of the laughter, mischief and joy Ali became so well known for.

Michael Mann's film has relatively little boxing in it, and is in no way a chronicle of Ali's career. A better choice for that subject is "The Greatest" - starring Ali himself, or one of the many documentaries on Ali. This film is about how and why Ali is who he is, and how he drove himself and everybody around him to reach phenomenal heights. It features the beginnings of Ali's career and follows him through the most difficult part of his career, when he fought the US government over the Viet Nam war, fought his own religious establishment over his outspokenness, and even fought against hypocritical promoters he relied on who were bent on exploiting the third world. Too intelligent to just be a prize fighter, too passionate to just shut up, and too faithful to give up his religion when it gave up on him, Ali just kept on driving. The film ends after Ali's fight against George Foreman in 1977, so it does not cover his entire career, and does not discuss his more recent activities. His life since retiring from boxing is equally interesting, in my opinion, but since Mann wanted to depict the most dramatic and challenging aspects of the Ali legend, I can't blame him for his choice of time frame.

The cast is very strong. Will Smith gives a fine performance wonderfully recasting Ali's wonderful facial expressions, gestures, physical style and speech pattern, Jamie Foxx, Ron Silver and Mario Van Peebles are all excellent in their supporting roles. And the boxers are all very believable. They even look like the people they play. Smith doesn't really look anything like Ali, and you are occasionally aware (mainly through Smith's imitation of the greatest's very unique speech) that you are watching an imitation, but this does not in any way detract from the film.

Highly recommended for those interested in real-life drama and heroism, the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and the intelligent and political side of American sports. NOT recommended for fans of boxing movies and action films. This is a slow moving, intense drama and neither a feel-good film nor a slug-fest.
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Excellent Adaptation of Ali's fights
imp_tp26 December 2001
The fights are not rocky-type or "entertaining" but REAL. Inside the boxing ring, things are different. I was glad to see close to perfect adaptation of Ali's fights (I watched documentary on Ali's career). Michael Mann gets credit for painting all the different aspects of Ali's life superbly. Well, 'Ali' is based on a real legend and not a super-hero and so it is hell of a job to portray such a personality on big screen and make it so entertaining to watch.

The only downside of the movie was to focus a little longer on effect of Africa on him. But the "Loud mouth" CHAMPs witty and "punchy" remarks in his real life along, with his big blows inside the ring, will keep you glued for more.

Overall, Will Smith's hard-work, Mann's adaptation and Mohammad Ali's legendary life makes 'Ali' a must watch for movie goers.
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Not a boxing movie, a landmark film
kyle_7933 January 2002
Well, if you went to Ali to see an boxing movie you might have been disappointed, but if you went to see a great film you hit the mark. The hype was due. A conglomerate of great acting, great direction, and a great story has made Ali a landmark film. This film is socially important because it raises up one of the most notable and underappreciated figures of the twentieth century, Ali. Many considered Ali just a boxer with a big mouth, but this film finally exposes him for what he truly was, one of the greatest civil rights leaders of our time. The film makes subtle but amazingly-done comparisons between Ali and other civil rights leaders, notably Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and highlites Ali's influence with theirs. This theme is climaxed in the beautiful scene of Ali (Will Smith) running down streets in Africa with local chidren chanting his name. At this moment in the film, we understand as viewers that Ali did not fight for fame or fortune, but he fought for his rights and the rights of all black people in the United States and the world. No other film has exhalted Ali's influence in such a way. It was beautifully done. Ali will become one of my favorite films of all time, and I believe will be remembered years from now as the crowning achievement of both the main actor and the director. I applaud their efforts
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Solid performances, but there was definitely missed potential here
jimbo-53-18651118 January 2015
The first thing that I am prepared to acknowledge is Will Smith's performance in this film; he was impressive and seemed to really get into the character of Ali. Although his acting was excellent in this film, I don't believe that he should have been Oscar nominated. Likewise, Foxx and several of the supporting characters were also excellent. The film was also well-shot and generally well-made and from a technical aspect it was a fairly polished product. Unfortunately, that's where the praise for this film ends....

For me there was far too much time spent on dull aspects of Ali's life such as Ali's various relationships - this aspect of his life got way too much focus and it did, at times, make the film feel like an over-long combination of melodrama and soap opera. At the same time, other potentially more interesting or important areas seemed to either have been ignored or glossed over - there's very little focus on Ali's training, no real mention of his family. Considering the film is over 2 and a half hours long I expected there to be a reasonable amount of boxing and/or training, but we're probably treated to about 30 minutes of boxing (if that) and then 2 hours of melodrama and soap opera. I'm sure a lot of what I describe as 'melodrama' and 'soap opera' type events did occur in Ali's life, but these elements don't make for an entertaining film and should have been kept to a minimum.

All of the above isn't helped by the fact that the screenplay felt like it was put together in a haphazard way - the writers would shift from one aspect of Ali's life to another in quick succession barely giving you chance to digest what you've just seen.

Although from a technical perspective this film was generally well put together and polished I did feel that the camera work during the boxing matches was pretty poor and as a result I didn't feel quite as involved in the action as I did when I've watched other boxing films. This came as a really big disappointment when you consider how poor many other elements of the film were.

Aside from the great performances, there really isn't much else going for this film. My feeling are that it was an over-long soap opera with a bit of boxing thrown in here and there. If you want to see a good boxing biopic then I would recommend Cinderella Man. Muhammad Ali may be the Greatest, but this film certainly isn't.
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Deeply absorbing emotional trip 5/5 stars (Ali's jogging sequence in Afria will stab you in the heart with its emotionally wrenching revelation)
baysidetidal27 December 2001
There are many critics out there who have given this film negative reviews on the basis that the film didn't succeed in giving the viewers a focused look at how significant and grand Ali was. I understand completely the motivations and arguments behind those negative reviews. However, I must say they misunderstood what the movie was trying to do. Because most thought Ali would be a standard bio-pic, the film was expected to cover a sprawling canvas of a larger-than-life figure of charisma known as Ali from childhood to present with deft focus on his life. This was NOT director Michael Mann's goal. Mann's ultimate objective, in my humble opinion, was to create an intimate portrait of a man whom the public saw only as a cultural icon. To give him a soul behind that grand persona. To reveal him as a fellow man among men; how he lived, how he behaved in his personal life, how he sat, how he looked, how he talked, every little insignificant moments of his life in the film were there to give the public an idea, a glimpse of him as a fellow human being and not as an icon or a symbol. That is why the movie was an absolute masterpiece. Although Will Smith's performance in the film was hypnotically amazing, I must say the real star of the movie for me was Michael Mann. From the first 10 minutes or so of the montage sequence in the beginning of the movie, Mann absorbed me right in with his achingly beautiful, intimate, and minimalistic photography and compositions. I still see the imagery in my head going on a loop and forcing me to play back the memorable images my eyes were exposed to as if they were photographic printing paper. The movie was so beautiful and poignant, I found myself weeping during the many moments of introspective scenes with Ali looking on towards the horizon or vacantly into nothingness as if internally struggling to find his identity. Before I stop myself in rambling on and on about how much I'm in love with this film and Michael Mann's directing style, I should note that there is a sequence in the movie where you won't resist in emotionally breaking down. The sequence in question is the jogging sequence in Africa where Ali runs past non-chalantly through a village and looks at children's murals on concrete walls of himself. I WILL NOT spoil this because I want you viewers to go through the same shock that I had.
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Poetry! Rewrites the book on filmic storytelling
tomligon14 May 2002
A certain kind of critical response kept me away from this film when it was in theatrical release, and I should have known better! Michael Mann is one of the most original storytellers working in film today, and his sensibility is absolutely in sync with his subject here. Muhammad Ali always did it his way, and from the brilliant opening sequence (which breaks all kinds of rules of time and space) to the last scene, that's what Mann does, and with great style, as ever. Of course if an audience demands a literal drama, they might not catch the poetry Mann and his team create with sound and picture. Will Smith is outstanding as Ali, vocally and visually, Jon Voight is a unbelievably convincing Howard Cosell, and Mario Van Peebles is subtle and moving as Malcom X.
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solid but flawed
bluetunehead30 June 2003
Ali is a film that both succeeds and fails at the same time. Will Smith's performance was very solid, yet I never was able to shake the feeling that on screen it was Will Smith playing Muhammad Ali and not simply Muhammad Ali. Perhaps that is through no fault of his. He truly does a great impression of the fighter. The script is again decent, centering on several facets of the star's life that go beyond the sports pages. However, overall the whole project has a rather distant feel. The viewer rarely is truly captivated by what is occurring. Michael Mann's characteristic documentary-esque filming style works well in parts, but services to alienate the viewer in others. Yes, it feels as though you are almost watching a documentary in many cases, as if the viewer is a bystander to the circumstances at hand, but this is a work of drama, not a documentary. I wish someone had told Mann to stop shaking the camera and shifting to view Ali between the standard stock of blurred reporters for a few seconds and do a more typically dramatic shot. With Heat and The Insider, Mann managed to pull off this style successfully. In Ali he does not. In many cases conversations begin to rise but then only dissipate before anything really gripping has been said. Simply put, this film could have used a few more motivational speeches along the lines of a Rocky film. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as accurate, but it would have serviced a more dramatic story, at least one where the viewer really felt involved. Ali goes through two wives in the film and in neither case do they even serve to get very angry with him. Voices begin to rise and then either the woman or Ali leaves the room. The scene ends without any heavy emotion other than stern faces being shown. He's divorced a few minutes later. The fight scenes also have a lack of emotion. The film style is interesting and visually stimulating, but it could have used a few `it's over Rock!' lines here and there to punctuate things.

Mann's standard use of music again fails in many cases here. Whereas in "historical" films like Forrest Gump period music is used to punctuate a dramatic score, in Ali it is almost the sole backing track of the film. There is scarcely any musical score involved. When it is used, it often seems like it was just pieced together from leftovers to provide ambience. In a few key dramatic scenes, the pop ditties being played (although sometimes fitting lyrically) really end up being a distraction. The death of Malcolm X is a prime example. Ali's close friend has just been killed and you're just waiting for a rising orchestral number (however cliche and standard it may be, that's what you're looking for), but instead you get a period song that, at this point in the film, is beginning to sound like half a dozen others before it. In several cases Mann's musical style does work (Ali's jog through the streets of Zaire being an example, the closing number another) but the technique fails overall.

I've mostly criticized this film, which should not be the only viewpoint, because cinematically it is a fine work. There doesn't need to be another Ali film made, as this will service his legacy nicely. It has flaws, but I point out these flaws taking for granted just how good much of it is. The banter between Ali and Howard Cosell (Jon Voight, who completely disappears into this role) is classic, and work by Jaime Foxx and Mario Van Peebles (as Malcolm X) is solid as well. Michael Mann knows how to handle a film and I would rather watch a sub-par outing from him than most of what Hollywood produces any day. He's just done better. Some script work and a better musical score could have pushed this good film to greatness.

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Will Smith's Bout.
Python Hyena15 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Ali (2001): Dir: Michael Mann / Cast: Will Smith, Jon Voight, Jamie Foxx, Mykelti Williamson, Mario Van Peeples: Boxing film is poorly edited, written and directed by Michael Mann who made the intriguing suspense drama The Insider. Cassius Clay became one of the biggest names in boxing history and certainly a celebrated champion. He switched from Christianity to Muslim resulting in a name change to Mahammad Ali. Highlights includes bouts with Sonny Lipton, Joe Fraser, and a bout in Africa against George Foreman. Unfocused with Ali being drafted and arrested for refusing induction; his brother shot; bad marriages. Many of the shots do not match. The nightclub singers footage is also unnecessary. Boxing footage is exhilarating with a fantastic performance by Will Smith as Ali. Smith holds strong and is the best aspect of the film but Ali deserves a tighter screenplay as oppose to the laziness scribbled down for the screenplay. Jon Voight plays a promoter in what is a fine effort but a one note role. Jamie Foxx seems out of place as Ali's brother, and the footage comes across as distracting. Cameo by Mykelti Williamson as fight promoter Don King but none of it is inspiring or worthy of our attention span. Mario Van Peeples also makes an appearance as the infamous Malcolm X, but again, more would be better. Fine attempt is down for the count. Score: 4 ½ / 10
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Truly an incredible piece of cinema
reinout_vanschie8 September 2002
I personally think this movie was one of the best of last year. As a biopic it might be interesting to compare this movie with Beautiful Mind, that other biopic that won too much awards. I often thought about, what if Ron Howard,together with his writer made Ali, how would that movie be? Because Ali's life can be told in a very Beautiful Mind'esque way.

Show how Ali became the greatest, then let his world fall, show how he begins suffering from his disease, until he has to stop boxing, and end the movie with some sort of heroic end moment, maybe an award show, where Ali get's an award like, sportsman of the decade/century whatever (I don't actually know if he ever got something like that, but it's just an example). Can you see where I'm going?

Now if you look at Ali, how this movie turned out, you see it's a complete different movie. They don't show Ali getting sick, they show only 10 years of his life, the 10 years that transformed him from a Good boxer to a Legend.

By limiting it's storytime to these 10 years, I think Michael Mann, succeeded in not making Ali sentimental. When we leave the theater we don't feel pity for Ali because he had such a hard life, like we did have in a sense with John Nash in B.mind. We leave the theater in a state of awe. The movie shows us how Ali became a legend. How he struggled and fought, and we never pity him, Ali is to powerfull a personality to pity, we respect him, and given that Ali is very much real and alive in the real world, we can't help but to look up to that person.

However, the movie doesn't glamourize Ali, it doesn't make of him a flawless larger-than-life hero. By portraying his troubled relations with his many girlfriends/wifes, how he more than once let himself be used by others etc. the movie shows Ali was human. It doesn't shy away of his questionable relationship with The Nation of the Islam, for instance. Just as Ali in real life probably wouldn't hide those facts.

Now to come to the practical aspects of this movie...because Ali is truly a magnificent film. Of course Smith plays Ali incredible, and if you compare him to footage of the real Ali, when he was about 20/30 years, you see just how close he comes to recreating Ali. But next to him we also have Jon Voight, Jaimi Foxx, Mario van Peebles, all playing so completely in-character that you hardly recognize them as actors. Then there is Mann's directorial power. From the brilliant opening 10 minutes, to the truly awe-inspiring, moving, scenes in Africa at the end, Mann carefully directs this picture, never making it dull, but also never forcing plotlines. He tells the story so subtle, you won't ever feel like he thinks that you as an audience can't understand something unless it's explained in big bright words. If someone breaks down in tears, he won't compliment this with violins in the background, soft-focus or whatever, he just shows a person breaking down. And I like this style incredibly well, especially in a biopic like this.

So to come to a conclusion, Ali is indeed a masterpiece. Not as instantly accesible as the Insider or Heat, and not as conventional as Beautiful Mind, but in it's own right one of the (not THE:) greatest Biopic's yet made.
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fieldy15 September 2002
Somewhere along the line, it somehow got forgotten that a film should be entertaining. Whoever was responsible (I guess director Michael Mann, who also directed the great film 'The Insider') must have just got so swept up in the life of Ali that it slipped his mind.

The film is so long and boring I found it hard to keep my eyes open. Previously I didn't know that much about Ali's life, and unfortunately I think a lot is assumed, because it just skips absent-mindedly from one scene to the next, without much really happening. At times it is like we are seeing a 'best of' of Ali's life, and those reviews that praise how authentically the scenes of the movie recreate those from news footage of Ali only go to back up this point.

The film is obviously well-made, and all the actors do a pretty good job, but it's just so damn BORING!
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I was very disappointed!
lebrn25 December 2001
The pitch "Forget what you think you know", is aptly used. Because if you know anything about Mohammed Ali you will be disappointed.

You would be better off just watching the documentary that was made for TV. This movie didn't have any more information. There was a ton of "filler". A lot of very long boring scenes with nothing happening.

Good musical! Michael Mann always picks the perfect music for each scene in his movies. That is the only good thing I can say about it.

It was shallow. I love boxing and have always admired Mohammed Ali.

This movie had no story. It moved at a snails pace.

Don't even bother renting it when it comes out on video! In an industry where script is king, the producers should know better than to make a movie like this one.
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I Agree With Most Of The Critics
Theo Robertson29 June 2003
As always the problem of getting someone to play Muhammed Ali is that they don`t have the charisma to play the great man , hell not even Ali could play himself convincingly in THE GREATEST so I didn`t think Will Smith star of weak Summer blockbusters like WILD WILD WEST or the MIB films was going to be much cop in the title role

I do think Michael Mann is a good director and is rather underrated due to the fact he started out in television . Mann does bring realism to the fight scenes in ALI , they`re maybe not as good as the ones in RAGING BULL but they still pack a punch ( Sorry couldn`t resist that one ) , compare the ring scenes here to the laughably bad ones seen in the ROCKY movies and you`ll notice a big difference . My only criticism of Mann in this film is that a few of the scenes outside the ring lack narritive drive with one of the characters saying something to another character and having the camer a linger too long on the characters moody look , but this is a minor flaw

The serious flaw is something everyone else has pointed out and is something that I quickly noticed while watching ALI - The script is too overlong . I hadn`t read the readers comments untill I sat down to write this review so my views weren`t prejudiced but most of the reviewers are spot on , fight scenes feature as do politics , religion , Malcolm X , government spooks and Ali`s marital life and I can`t help thinking the whole film would have worked better if it had just focussed on Ali`s boxing career . As it is ALI isn`t a film I`d watch over and over again like RAGING BULL

It does have a positive point in its favour - The cast . If I hadn`t known what part Jon Voight was playing I`d have sat through the film wondering when he was going to turn up because he`s totally unrecognisable but he`s very good in his role . Ron Silver is almost unrecognisable but good as is Mario Van Peebles , but best of all is Will Smith as Muhammed Ali . Okay I could nit pick but that would be unkind and pedantic so all I`ll say is Smith deserved his Oscar nod
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Not impressed
Samiam331 March 2012
I can't stand when movies take such iconic figures and make them into the kind of people that you don't want to see a movie about. Director Michael Mann takes this individual and strips his life of heart and soul, making him so lacking in character that he's impossible to care for.

Muhammad Ali is defined by his ego in this movie, not by his personality or any of the people in his life. Mann's direction makes the film surprisingly distant, slow, poorly edited and devoid of glory. Will Smith has got the talent, it's all there, no question, but there is not much of a character for him to play. The same can be said about the rest of the cast; an ensemble of talented people filling the shoes of such boring underwritten characters.

I don't feel like I learned a thing about Muhammed Ali from this motion picture. I'm not impressed.
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Does not do justice to "The Greatest"
Tiger_Mark25 August 2003
I am a huge fan of Michael Mann and a boxing historian. As a result, I was rather thrilled to see that Mann was chosen to do this film, he is very gifted. I was less than thrilled to see Will Smith get this role, however, I was willing to give it a fair shot. Well, I was let down in a big way. I really think this film got lost in the edit. They took the most fascinating boxer in the history of the sport, who fought in more big fights than any other, and made a rather dull movie. In fact, this movie has the looks of a made for TV mini-series. However, the most upsetting thing about it, is Mann's insistence on focussing on such trivial matters. Most of the main events of Ali's life are skimmed and long extended scenes are given to nothing, like Ali dancing. I did not buy Smith, he looked like the Fresh Prince trying to pretend he was Ali. Never did I once buy him as Ali. Voight was pathetic as Cossell and the actors that were brought in to play such characters as Sonny Liston were poor. Overall, this movie, although made by a legend, failed to capture the essence of the the "Greatest."
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Terrible. I don't want to see a non-entertaining "talking head" movie about a cocky, cheating boxer. Sure, he may have been a really good boxer, but Brando's a really good actor and I'd hate to see a bio flick about him. You know why? Because he's self-centered and insane.

There are about three fights in this movie, and yes, they're boring too. Yes, the fight scenes are boring, I never thought I'd say that about a movie, but I did, for Ali.

The fact that Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for this movie is offensive. He acts the same as he does in almost every one of his other movies: cocky and funny (though he was a lot less funny in Ali, making him just cocky). Oh, well, I guess Smith uses an accent in this, so maybe that's why... ...maybe not. Boring movie, only redeeming factor is Jon Voight, and that's only because Jon Voight's in a movie where he doesn't look or sound like Jon Voight. Bad movie, 5/10.
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Surprisingly Quiet, Slow, even Dull
jazzest7 September 2003
Surprisingly quiet, slow, even dull biopic for such an aggressive, passionate, and charismatic athlete/historic figure. Probably Michael Mann intended to demystify Muhammad Ali; still I would appreciate if it were more fast-paced, more visually vivid, and more emotionally intense.

While well-crafted cinematography seems over calculated at times, improvisational editing in the boxing game scenes properly recreates the jazzy atmosphere of the historic moments. Will Smith could have done better job on the boxing realization, according to my boxer pal.
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Yet another awful ‘true story' picture that fails.
RIK-222 July 2003
Where to start. Lights, cameras, action and slow motions and that's about it, unfortunately. There's something that Hollywood must learn about biographical film making is that you must show something that the public hasn't seen before. The reason for the appeal of films like this is to get under the skin of the person in question, see what goes on behind closed doors.

What was Ali really like in reality, was he more than the public, rude, arrogant, cocky, but great fighter or was he really that sad and one dimensional. Unfortunately after watching this bore-a-thon, I can only assume he was that dull.

They clearly should have shown his childhood and his decent into his later years, this would have been much more interesting, and they could have cut out the rather boring and over long fight scenes. I'm sure everyone already knew the results of the fights anyway.

For some strange reason the film also drifted into a mini bio of Malcolm X and general re-cap of the civil rights struggles of black Americans. This is all very interesting, but already done to death and please keep it out of a film about Ali.

I can't say Will Smiths performance was anything other than just adequate, he never had me believing he wasn't Will Smith.

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Forget What You Think You Know
Old Joe15 September 2002
He ' floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee' and the world says he was the 'greatest'. Of course I am talking about Muhammad Ali, the world's most famous boxer. The movie to celebrate his life was an exceptional piece of cinematography. With an outstanding cast and hypnotic story, 'Ali' brings to life the controversial and popular boxer that we all love. This movie can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they like boxing or not.

The Champ Is Here! With wit and athletic genius, with defiant rage and inner grace, Muhammad Ali forever changed the American landscape. Fighting all comers, Ali took on the law, conventions, the status quo and the war - as well as the fists in front of him. Ali both ignited and mirrored the conflicts of his time and ours to become one of the most admired fighters in the world.

What an unbelievable role, by Hollywood superstar, Will Smith. He was fantastic in the role of Muhammad Ali. The work that he must have had to put into become 'Ali', would have been so grueling. I remember reading that Smith had to go through heavy amounts of boxing and weight training, to feel like a boxer, and then also look at Ali as a youngster from footage, and then become him. That he did, in only the way that Will Smith can. He was so good that the academy saw the role to be worthy of an academy award nomination. It was a shame that he did not win it.

The other roles in this film were also of a high quality. I found Jon Voight's role as the outlandish sports commentator, Howard Cosell, to be brilliant. At no stage can you pick that it is him. I am sure that what we see of Cosell, from Voight, is the true man of the time. It was also interesting to see Will Smith's real wife, Jada Pinkett, in the same movie. She was good as one of Muhammad's love interests.

The story to this film was interesting, as it had many fascinating facets to it. I found the way that we see Muhammad's interaction with the many women in his life to be written and portrayed well. I also enjoyed the way that Ali stood up for himself outside of the ring, with a poignant time in the film being when Cassius Clay rejects serving in the US army to fight in the Vietnam war. In addition to the fighting scenes that were interweaved brilliantly, to help balance this film's story. A lot of the praise must be given to the main man behind this film, director Michael Mann. He did an amazing job bringing 'Ali' to life. He was also a producer and a writer, so he had a big role in making 'Ali' the film it was.

Also having real boxers appear in this film, made the movie all the more enjoyable, as you believe the fighting is real. In fact the boxing scenes in this film, are of the finest quality. Will Smith put a lot of himself on the line, by really fighting as a boxer. He was up against fighters such as Malick Bowens, Michael Bentt, James Torney, Alfred Cole and Charles Shufford. I am certain that these men could pack a good punch, so Will was very willing to put his health on the line to make this film 'believable'.

I must make mention of what a personality Muhammad must have been. He was very opinionated, but also stood up for what he thought was true. I remember one comment about Ali being that he was 'a loud mouth', and that was so true. I mean the way that he must have fired up his opponents before a fight, by his blind arrogance is truly amazing. Again praise must be given to the way that Will Smith captured Ali's personality, to be really coming 'the greatest'. It is a shame that Muhammad's life has been affected by the horrible 'Parkinson's disease'. Yet I am sure that he is giving a great battle against this.

Ali is another film based on a true story, with a role that one performer makes his own. Smith is now in the class of actors such as Jim Carrey who became the crazy Andy Kaufman, Denzel Washington who became Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, the fine role taken on by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, who became the controversial figure of Teena Brandon in 'Boys Don't Cry' and Julia Roberts, who was Erin Brockovich, in one of the best performances of her career. This role was great from Smith, as it can and will show many people of my generation how great a legend Ali really was and is. This movie gives us all an important lesson. That we can be anything we want, against adversary and for the only person who counts - that being you!

CMRS gives 'Ali': 4 (very good film)
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Good title, but the movie lacked the punch
msoriano6718 December 2001
"Ali", a movie about Muhammed Ali, regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time had all the potential for being a great movie. Ali has always been bigger than life...loved by the people...loved by the media for his blatant arrogance...loved by many women...his life alone would have supplied any movie with enough material to make it a 'good' movie at the very least. The problem with "Ali" is that the story jumped from one portion of his life to another, the transition wasn't was more erratic than anything else. Will Smith's portrayal of the "living legend" was good, but definitely not "Oscar" material, like some critics would suggest. There were a few times where he seemed uneasy, almost nervous, and there were scenes where the other "supporting" characters would take over the scene (Don King for example). Jon Voight's portrayal of the venerable Howard Cossell was surprisingly good and right on the money. Other cast members like Jamie Foxx who played Drew 'Brundini' Brown (one of Ali's trainers) was equally impressive, he surely made the most of his supporting role and displayed his versatility since he's always been cast in a comedy. The movie overall lacked cohesiveness, I did like Michael Mann's camera work...the constant movement of the camera in most scenes depicted the turmoil, confusion..and it mirrored the political upheaval of the 60's. It would have been nice if the movie started with his gold medal win in the 1960 Olympic games...which would have set the tone for the whole movie. And for all the 'Rocky' fans out there, the boxing scenes were a little played almost looked boring....since most of us are used to the 'Rocky' style of movie boxing. Overall, Smith played Ali well...but his lack of versatility and the erratic transition of the story was the movie's downfall.
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I didn't realize Smith's acting until later
b-madarasz9 January 2004
Went to the theater expecting a Will Smith movie of a sort... For half the movie all I could see was Smith trying to be Ali, acting, recreating a persona and mannerisms from old television footage. Left the theater on a low note thinking, where was the catchy signature Rap that usually plays on the credit roll (Wa Wa, West, Wild West.)

I didn't realize how brilliant the "FP" was until I got home and happened to catch "Classic Fights" on ESPN. Ali was fighting and all I could think to myself was, man, that guy looks a lot like Will Smith...
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Not very impressive
Christopher Mercurio26 July 2003
As a boxing fan I have to say that this movie didn't impress me. The movie is just about Ali refusing to go into the service. That made me dislike the movie. Today he is considered a hero. Why? What did he do besides become champ. Other fighters have done that, like Joe Louis. Who also by the way enlisted in the army after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He didn't refuse like Muhammad Ali and try to use the excuse that he was a Muslim Minister. Joe Louis was a hero and the greatest. This movie is just saying, "I'm Muhammad Ali." "You took my title from me, but I got it back." I thought this movie would be about Ali's life and career. This movie shows terrible fights too. It depicts his fights with Liston. Oh and by the way, in Ali's rematch with Liston how come there's no mention of a phantom punch? The movie shows the punch land. It doesn't show the crowd yelling fix after the fight. That really made me dislike this movie. The movie shows Ali's fights with Jerry Quarry and Ernie Terrel. Who cares about those fights. Those are such bad fights. If they wanted to show good fights why didn't they show his fights with Frazier. They only show Ali/Frazier I. The fights that ends it all is his fight with George Foremen. It stops right there. They don't even show his whole career. They don't show his spectacular fights with Ken Norton or his loss at the hands of Leon Spinks. They don't show him regain the title when someone beats him. What is it with Will Smith? He is a terrible Ali. He looks and sounds nothing like him. He tries to sound like him, but he comes off sounding gay. This movie is not good. Muhammad Ali even hated it.
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Mission: Impossible?
enoonmai25 October 2004
Although this film was too long, it missed out the beginning and end of the Ali story. The omission of Clay being refused service in a diner upon his return from the Olympics and the 'Thrilla in Manila' leave huge holes in the make-up of the man and icon that is Muhammad Ali.

The fight scenes are superbly choreographed using real boxers and this is part of another problem with the film – is it a documentary or a movie?. As a boxing fan, I had difficulty believing that his opponents were who they were supposed to be - Joe Frazier was James Toney with an afro wig and never had me believing that he was Joe Frazier.

Overall, this film dealt well with Ali's womanising and relationship with 'Bundini' Brown and Howard Cosell but was superficial and left me unfulfilled. Maybe this was mission impossible but the movie set out ambitious targets and missed most of them. You are better off getting a video of Ali's fights, watching 'When We Were Kings' and reading his biography by Thomas Hauser.
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