Mohammed Ali is one of the most charismatic characters of the late 20th Century, and turning his life story into a movie must have been a daunting task. Ali was (and remains) a complicated man. He was the people’s champion, who thought that African-American women who dated white men should be killed. He was an American hero who refused to fight in Vietnam. He was a devout Muslim who cheated on his wives at every opportunity. In short a fascinating, thorny force of nature who declared himself to be “The Greatest.” Director Michael Mann eschews regular storytelling tricks, opting for an impressionistic take on the material. Images fly past the viewer, moving the story along, but more importantly imprinting a sense of time and place that is palatable. Will Smith is up to the job of playing the champ in the charisma department, although lacks the stature to be completely believable as a heavy-weight boxer. All in all Ali is a fitting and largely unsentimental tribute to a man who lived his life in the public arena.
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