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Ali is a American biographical film directed by Michael Mann. The film tells the story of boxing icon Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) from 1964 to 1974 featuring his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, criticism of the Vietnam War, banishment from boxing, his return to fight Joe Frazier in 1971, and, lastly, his reclaiming the title from George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974.

The movie also discusses the great social and political upheaval in the United Statesmarker following the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Production

The movie was written by Gregory Allen Howard, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth and Michael Mann. The original script by Howard and Rivele was significantly modified by Roth and Mann. Howard was originally commissioned to write an Ali script by producer Jon Peters in 1994, but it was never produced.

Will Smith spent approximately one year learning all aspects of Ali's life. These included boxing training, Islamic studies and dialect training (to help him speak like Ali). Smith has said that his portrayal of Ali is his proudest work to date.

One of the selling points of the film is the realism of the fight scenes. Smith worked alongside boxing promoter Guy Sharpe from SharpeShooter Entertainment and his lead fighter Ross Kent to get the majority of his boxing tips for the film. All of the boxers in the film are in fact former or current world heavyweight champions. It was quickly decided that 'Hollywood fighting'—passing the fist (or foot) between the camera and the face to create the illusion of a hit—would not be used in favor of actual boxing. The only limitation placed upon the fighters was for Charles Shufford (who plays George Foreman). He was permitted to hit Will Smith as hard as he could, so long as he did not actually knock the actor out.

Smith had to gain a significant amount of weight to look the part of Muhammad Ali.

Cast



Reception

Ali opened on December 25, 2001 and grossed a total of $14.7 million in 2,446 theaters on its opening weekend. The film went on to gross a total of $87.7 million worldwide. The film holds a 68% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The film had generally favorable reviews with the acting being well received by critics in general. Roger Ebert derided the film with two stars in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, and mentioned, "it lacks much of the flash, fire and humor of Muhammad Ali and is shot more in the tone of a eulogy than a celebration". In Variety magazine, Todd McCarthy wrote, "The director's visual and aural dapplings are strikingly effective at their best, but over the long haul don't represent a satisfactory alternative to in-depth dramatic scenes; one longs, for example, for even one sequence in which Ali and Dundee discuss boxing strategy or assess an opponent", but did have praise for the performances: "The cast is outstanding, from Smith, who carries the picture with consummate skill, and Voight, who is unrecognizable under all the makeup but nails Cosell's distinctive vocal cadences". USA Today gave the film two and half stars out of four and claimed that, "for many Ali fans, the movie may be good enough, but some perspective is in order. The documentaries A.K.A. Cassius Clay and the Oscar-winning When We Were Kings cover a lot of the same ground and are consistently more engaging".

In the New York Times, Elvis Mitchell proclaimed Ali to be a "breakthrough" film for Mann, that it was his "first movie with feeling" and that "his overwhelming love of its subject will turn audiences into exuberant, thrilled fight crowds". J. Hoberman, in his review for the Village Voice, felt that the "first half percolates wonderfully — and the first half hour is even better than that. Mann opens with a thrilling montage that, spinning in and out of a nightclub performance by Sam Cooke, contextualizes the hero in his times", concluded that, "Ali's astonishing personality is skillfully evoked but, in the end, remains a mystery".

Awards



Home release

After the theatrical version (157 min.) was released on DVD, Mann revisited his film again with a new cut (165 min.). He took out approximately 20 minutes of footage and put 30 minutes of previously unseen footage back in. The director claimed that the politics of the times are more the focus.

References



External links




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