×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ali: An American Hero

Hollywood's current fascination with pugilism will no doubt result in some glass-jawed efforts like this Fox biopic among the triumphs such as Universal's "The Hurricane" last year and the moving HBO docu "Ali-Frazier I" that aired just a fortnight prior to "Ali: An American Hero." This "Ali" effort gets a steady perf out of David Ramsey as the most famous boxer of all, but there's no sense of his importance or his inner turmoil -- these two hours are kept an arm's distance from landing any emotional punches.

With:
Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali - David Ramsey Marcellus Clay - Clarence Williams III Malcolm X - Joe Morton Drew "Bundini" Brown - Vondie Curtis-Hall Angelo Dundee - Martin Ferrero Elijah Muhammad - Antonio Fargas Rudy Clay/Rahaman - Khalil Kain Howard Cossell - Earl Boen

Hollywood’s current fascination with pugilism will no doubt result in some glass-jawed efforts like this Fox biopic among the triumphs such as Universal’s “The Hurricane” last year and the moving HBO docu “Ali-Frazier I” that aired just a fortnight prior to “Ali: An American Hero.” This “Ali” effort gets a steady perf out of David Ramsey as the most famous boxer of all, but there’s no sense of his importance or his inner turmoil — these two hours are kept an arm’s distance from landing any emotional punches.

Like practically every biopic, this one is told in flashback, starting with the training sessions in Zaire for the “Rumble in the Jungle” fight against George Foreman. (For the real deal, see the Oscar-winning doc “When We Were Kings”). Flashback goes to a young Cassius Clay seeing his bicycle stolen from the streets of Louisville and his stumbling into a boxing gym. He pledges to put up a fight to get his bike back, which gets a cop to offer a few tips and, within a few minutes, has Clay ready to go to the Rome Olympics in 1960.

Writer Jamal Joseph whips through the Clay/Ali story, introducing his corner men Angelo Dundee (Martin Ferrero), Ferdie Pacheco and Drew “Bundini” Brown (Vondie Curtis-Hall), as well as Malcolm X (Joe Morton) at a maddening speed.

There is a bit of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, driven largely by racism, when Clay is scheduled to fight Sonny Liston in Miami for the heavyweight championship. Nothing is made about their second meeting — and the famous phantom punch — in Lewiston, Maine.

Some care is taken with the scenes in which Clay becomes a Muslim and develops a relationship with Malcolm X, yet there’s never any interrogation into what drove Ali to those personal crossroads nor the impact it had on America when he refused to be drafted into the Army.

He’s married, divorced, married in one fell swoop, yet there’s no sense as to what kind of a family man he was in the 1970s when his popularity was at its peak. Even in its attempts to cover just the facts, biopic doesn’t get to the heart of Ali-Liston, Ali-Joe Frazier or the pending Foreman bout.

The fighter Ali was a gregarious man, one who knew how to surround himself with a crowd of people at all times. “An American Hero” timidly attempts to show the private side of this very public man, and there’s not much there.

Ramsey, despite having the build of a middleweight, has his convincing moments, as does Clarence Williams III as Clay’s father, Marcellus. Morton plays Malcolm as a sedate mind-controller; Earl Boen proves there was only one Howard Cossell.

Leon Ichaso’s direction is sharp, and the use of actual footage gives the telepic some urgency between the ropes. But there’s a scene in which Malcolm tells the newly named Ali “you can change the world”: That was true about Ali, the man, yet it never comes through in “Ali: An American hero.”

Ali: An American Hero

Fox, Thurs. Aug. 31, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Thomas Carter Co. in association with Fox Television. Executive producer, Thomas Carter; co-executive producers, Ian Sander, Kim Moses; director, Leon Ichaso; writer, Jamal Joseph; producer, Richard Rothstein.

Crew: Director of photography, Claudio Chea; production designer, Joseph P. Lucky; editor, Michael Schweitzer; music, Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker; casting, Ellen Mack Knight. 120 MIN.

Cast: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali - David Ramsey Marcellus Clay - Clarence Williams III Malcolm X - Joe Morton Drew "Bundini" Brown - Vondie Curtis-Hall Angelo Dundee - Martin Ferrero Elijah Muhammad - Antonio Fargas Rudy Clay/Rahaman - Khalil Kain Howard Cossell - Earl BoenWith: Ray Baker, Beverly Todd, Yvonna Kopacz, Sterling Macer, Casey Biggs, Brian Reddy, Aaron Weeks, Joe Lala, Marc Coddette, Brian Leckner.

More TV

  • Desus and Mero

    Desus & Mero Are Doing Late-Night Their Own Way

    It wasn’t too long ago that Desus Nice and The Kid Mero were living their lives as Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez, two bored Bronx guys throwing jokes on Twitter about their frustrating jobs. But six years after joining forces, they’re poised to crash the overwhelmingly monochrome late-night talk-show party with their wicked wit, supreme [...]

  • Norah O'Donnell

    CBS Mulls Changes to 'CBS Evening News,' Eyes Norah O'Donnell for Anchor Slot (EXCLUSIVE)

    CBS News is considering making significant changes to its flagship “CBS Evening News,” according to four people with knowledge of the talks, part of a top-down look at the news division by incoming president Susan Zirinsky. Executives are considering putting “CBS This Morning” anchor Norah O’Donnell in the lead role of its evening-news broadcast, these [...]

  • Lena Waithe-Produced Comedy Scores Pilot Order

    Lena Waithe-Produced Comedy Scores Pilot Order from Showtime

    Showtime has ordered a pilot for “How to Make Love to a Black Woman (Who May Be Working Through Some Sh*t), a half-hour comedy anthology series created by Casallina “Cathy” Kisakye. The show landed at the network through Emmy winner Lena Waithe’s first-look deal with Showtime. Kisakye, who will write the pilot, joins Waithe and [...]

  • Rainn Wilson SoulPancake

    Rainn Wilson Joins Amazon Series 'Utopia'

    Rainn Wilson has been cast in a lead role in the upcoming Amazon series “Utopia.” Based on the British series of the same name created by Dennis Kelly, “Utopia” follows group of young adults who meet online and are mercilessly hunted by a shadowy deep state organization after they come in to possession of a [...]

  • The-Daily-Show-With-Trevor-Noah

    Viacom Inks Deal With FuboTV Streaming Service

    Viacom reached a distribution deal with FuboTV, which will soon add an array of the conglomerate’s networks — including Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon — to its live TV internet streaming service. Viacom is now on four “virtual pay-TV” platforms: Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Philo and FuboTV. Viacom remains absent from [...]

  • Weather Channel Taps NBCUniversal, Nexstar Alum

    Weather Channel Taps NBCUniversal, Nexstar Alum Tom O'Brien as President

    Byron Allen has turned to NBCUniversal and Nexstar alum Tom O’Brien to serve as president of the Weather Channel, the cable stalwart that Allen’s Entertainment Studios acquired for $300 million last March. O’Brien replaces Dave Shull, who left the company in October after serving as president-CEO of the Atlanta-based company since 2016. O’Brien will oversee [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content