‘Ali’ Is a Mashup That’s Worse Than the Sum of Its Parts

Michael Mann walks the blurry lines between homage, imitation, and theft as he attempts to tell the stories of Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, the 1960s, and the Cold War geopolitical order in a single sprawling biopic. Join as Rob and Alex Navarro take the movie to ten rounds discussing just how much Mann borrowed from Spike Lee's Malcolm X and the documentary When We Were Kings, and to what degree he ends up directing poor stealth-remakes of both.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wxnjxn/ali-is-a-mashup-thats-worse-than-the-sum-of-its-parts
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It’s so weird thinking of Ali as a Michael Mann film. I completely forgot he was the director until now! The movie came out at the height of Will Smith’s stardom and felt completely engulfed by the sheer wattage of his celebrity. And it is a great performance by him, catching the essence Louisville-bred cadence of The Greatest. More than that, Smith’s natural charisma matches nicely with Ali’s magnetism and sells him as the icon he was.

I’m not usually a fan of Oscar-bait biopics, but as far as those go, one can do a lot worse that this. At the very least, the film modernized the filming techniques related to boxing, and without it I don’t think we would have gotten the incredible fight scenes in Creed and Creed II.


I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this one before and I’m not massively in the mood to watch it again. Excited for the episode though.

Instead, I’d recommend last year’s One Night in Miami (released on Amazon Prime) featuring Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke together in a tense drama as their various celebrities lives and sense of responsibility to the greater civil rights movements and interpersonal drama all come together in a long night in Miami, just after Ali beat Sonny Liston.

Remarkable film, one I like better than Ali or Malcolm X since it is able to show these men as people, often dorky or horny or cranky, utterly human, but still grappling with the burden of fighting one of the hardest fights of the 20th century. Biopics have so much territory to cover that you might actually be able to learn more about a historical figure by showing just one slice of their life in detail rather than the entire thing. Helps too that the cast is completely stacked top to bottom.