Superstar Will Smith gives the performance of his career as boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a visually amazing epic drama from Academy Award(r) nominated director Michael Mann. Muhammad Ali thrilled the world with his ground-breaking boxing victories in the '60s and '70s. But the man behind the legend is grappling with a tumultuous romantic life, his deeply held religious beliefs and the pressures ofstaying on top. A quick-witted, winning personality and strong friendships with close associates, including renowned newscaster Howard Cosell (Golden Globe(r) nominee Jon Voight), help Ali "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." But faced with a life-changing conflict outside of the ring, the famously opinionated boxer is forced to rely on the one person he knows the best: himself.
Michael Mann's Ali
was released in 2001 to mixed reviews and box-office indifference, so it was perhaps inevitable that Mann would release a director's cut on DVD. A total of eight minutes have been restored (increasing the 157-minute theatrical release to 165 minutes), and while the differences seem subtle at first, they substantially enhance Mann's attempt to present Muhammud Ali as a symbolic hero standing firm in a tempest of history. Ali's resonant humanity is more evident here, as is the personal burden he bore while defying the U.S. draft and facing harsh criticism for his uncompromising pacifism, even from such African American luminaries as Jackie Robinson. Mann's commentary is rich in historical and political context, rarely addressing technical filmmaking issues but offering a deep understanding of the issues and incidents that were dividing America in the mid- and late 1960s. In dedicating his commentary to Will Smith, Mann acknowledges a collaboration that was undoubtedly intense and critically underrated. Smith's contribution, and his close affinity with Ali and Ali's legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee, are explored in the making-of documentary, a routine promotional featurette that offers revealing glimpses of Mann's directorial style. The lasting impression one gets from this DVD is that Ali
remains a flawed but admirably ambitious film, full of virtues--and virtuoso filmmaking--that will be duly recognized with the passage of time. --Jeff Shannon