A biography of sports legend Muhammad Ali, focusing on his triumphs and controversies between 1964 and 1974.

Director:

Michael Mann

Writers:

Gregory Allen Howard (story), Stephen J. Rivele (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Will Smith ... Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali
Jamie Foxx ... Drew 'Bundini' Brown
Jon Voight ... Howard Cosell
Mario Van Peebles ... Malcolm X
Ron Silver ... Angelo Dundee
Jeffrey Wright ... Howard Bingham
Mykelti Williamson ... Don King
Jada Pinkett Smith ... Sonji
Nona Gaye ... Belinda Ali
Michael Michele ... Veronica Porche
Joe Morton ... Chauncey Eskridge
Paul Rodriguez ... Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
Bruce McGill ... Bradley
Barry Shabaka Henley ... Herbert Muhammad
Giancarlo Esposito ... Cassius Clay, Sr.
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Storyline

In 1964, a brash new pro boxer, fresh from his Olympic gold medal victory, explodes on to the scene, Cassius Clay. Bold and outspoken, he cuts an entirely new image for African Americans in sport with his proud public self confidence with his unapologetic belief that he is the greatest boxer of all time. To his credit, he sets out to prove that with his highly agile and forceful style soon making him a formidable boxer who soon claims the heavyweight championship. His personal life is no less noteworthy with his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, his friendship with the controversial Malcolm X and his abandonment of his slave name in favor of Muhammad Ali stirring up controversy. Yet, at the top of his game, both Ali's personal and professional lives face the ultimate test with the military draft rules are changed, making him eligible for military induction during the Vietnam War. Despite the fact that he could easily agree to a sweetheart deal that would have meant an easy tour of ... Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

muslim | 1960s | 1970s | africa | boxer | See All (178) »

Taglines:

The Champ is here! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joe Morton played Malcolm X in Ali: An American Hero (2000). See more »

Goofs

In the last fight of the film, Ali always sits down between each round. In reality, he never sat down during that fight. See more »

Quotes

Drew 'Bundini' Brown: Free ain't easy. Free is real. And real's a motherfucker.
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Crazy Credits

The Columbia Pictures logo rolls backwards. See more »

Alternate Versions

Michael Mann announced in an interview with Steve Weintraub (on January 16, 2015 for 'Collider') that he is planning to release a third version of "Ali" on BluRay: "I did a re-edit of Ali for television that I really liked and I'd like to put out a Blu-ray of that edit. That was a significant re-edit. (...) It happens to move better and it's longer. (...) It's more complete and moves better. Much more dramatic." See more »

Connections

Features 17 Days Down the Line (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

That's How It Feels
Written by Bobby Womack and Don Covay (as Donald Covay)
Performed by The Soul Clan (as Soul Clan)
Courtesy of Atco Records/Elektra Entertainment Group
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
Published by Cotillion Music, Inc. and Rag Mop Music Corp.
Administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
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User Reviews

solid but flawed
30 June 2003 | by bluetuneheadSee all my reviews

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.

7/10


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Swahili

Release Date:

25 December 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ali See more »

Filming Locations:

Ghana See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$107,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$14,710,892, 30 December 2001

Gross USA:

$58,203,105

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$87,812,729
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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