Written by / 12/05/2011 / No comments / , , , , ,

MOHAMMAD ALI IN THE GREATEST

year: 1977 rating: **
In 1977 Mohammad Ali wasn't only a boxing champion, he was a personality. His confidence and poetic rants made people smile, sometimes in disbelief. So they decided, instead of creating a documentary, to allow him to star in a film covering his lean and hungry youth when he went by the name Cassius Clay, soon to rise as the greatest boxer in the world.

Another somewhat dependable actor plays a teenage Ali, but then we switch to the real thing much too soon. When this was shot, Ali was a man who seemed mellow and tired i.e. nearing the end of his game. An iconic athelete playing a hungry climber is not only misplaced, but at times downright embarrassing. While he does have a graceful, laidback charm, and it's fun seeing him interact with real actors like Ernest Borgnine and Robert Duvall, the film, in cutting from excerpts of actual fights back to the movie-at-hand, feels spotty and contrived. This is Ali's personal propaganda for his life and name-changing Muslim faith and the hardships against the white man, all played out like something you'd see on television. And the last fifteen minutes, as Ali jogs to a Bill Conti-like score before the final bout, it's obvious that without Sly Stallone's blockbuster ROCKY the year before, THE GREATEST would never have been made: at least not in this fashion.
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