"What's my name?"
Review by Ross Anthony

A moody retrospective look into the rocky road bridging belief, talent and career spanning a segment of the life of Muhammad Ali.

A fifteen minute Sam Cooke Medley sets the mood over images of chatter and a silent Ali ... warming the egg, which bursts open into the Ali-Liston fight like the flood gates of Cassius Clay's mouth. He's Luke Skywalker ready to go into battle, and he's not afraid to let the world know, "If you even dream of hitting me, you better wake up and apologize." The picture follows Ali's life up until the rumble in the jungle Foreman fight, "I'm going to hit him so many times, he'll think he's surrounded."

"Ali" saves the butterfly wing-speed for the ring, while kicking back into three or four virtual music videos, image/music collages. Though these mood-moments work nicely, they could use some trimming. In contrast, Ali takes to the ring three or four times bringing the viewer in with him. The close (sometimes jerky) camera work will have you ducking Foreman's punches, but at the cost of causing a few headaches. In between matches and tunes, Ali takes on the biggest fight of his life: Ali vs. the US government.

An adamant Moslem and friend of Malcolm X, Ali takes punches from all angles when he refuses to honor the draft, "Ain't no Viet Cong never called me nigger. ... I ain't draft dodging, flag burning or running to Canada - put me in jail ... I've been in jail for four hundred years!" Smith as Ali delivers many more zingers, strong statements packing just as much punch as his fists.

Okay, let's talk about Smith. I'm a big fan, "Fresh Prince," "Independence Day," he's got some range. But, as Ali? At best, Smith doesn't get in the way of the words and powerful life of Ali. At worst, you might want him to be a tad larger with a little more rasp in that voice.

Perhaps I'm bias. A couple of years back, I enjoyed a one man show on the life and times of Ali presented by an amazingly talented man -- Geoffrey Ewing. I wanted him to be Ali. (Ewing is likely still performing someplace, check the web.) As for John Voight, despite some less than impressive make up work, he finds the heart of Howard Cosell.

Besides presenting a perspective of Ali younger viewers will no doubt find eye-opening and impressive, I believe this to be a rather inspirational picture. As Einstein once said, "You think your homework is hard, you should see mine." (I paraphrase). Similarly, Ali's unabashed determination and belief in himself through extremely trying times ... this is what really makes him "The Greatest."

  • Ali. Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver.
  • Directed by Michael Mann.
  • Screenplay by Steven J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann.
  • Produced by Jon Peters, Paul Ardaji, A. Kitman Ho, Michael Mann at Columbia/Initial/Forward Pass.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:21:08 PDT