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19. One Night In Miami; movie review

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Title : 19. One Night In Miami; movie review
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Cert 15
115 mins
BBFC advice: Contains strong language, racism theme

Muhammad Ali spends the night of his first world heavyweight title win, in a down-at-heel motel room with singer Sam Cooke, American Football legend, Jimmy Brown and civil rights leader Malcolm X?
This is a bit far-fetched, isn't it?  Or so I thought.
It turns out that is exactly what happened.
It transpires that the high-profile quartet had all been long-time pals and they gathered at the Hampton House Motel in Miami.
Sadly, neither Cooke nor Malcolm X survived longer than a year after the fateful night and Ali has also passed away after suffering from dementia long into his retirement.
But Brown is still around at the age of 86 and I saw a YouTube clip of him joyfully recounting the meeting of minds.
Inevitably, Regina King's movie takes licence with the conversation because no transcript ever existed but the tone of it is apparently near the mark.
The film begins briefly with Ali (Eli Goree), then known as Cassius Clay, in action, - firstly against Brit Henry Cooper to whom he nearly lost and then in his championship clincher against Sonny Liston.
It flicks to Brown (Aldis Hodge) who experiences racism at the hands of a benefactor despite the latter claiming he reveres his talent.
Meanwhile, at the all-white Copacabana Club, Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr) suffers humiliation despite being a chart-topping artist and at his home, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) has a concerned talk with his wife (Joaquina Kalukango) about leaving the Nation Of Islam.
Meanwhile, Ali is lining white pockets as he sweeps all before him in the ring.
Thus, all come at the civil rights movement with the same wounded hearts but adopt different psychology to the struggle.
This is the issue which comes to the fore at the meet in Miami.
The verbal jousting between the men requires high-quality acting and focused directing to make sure all of their important views have equal limelight.
This is achieved on both counts.
The movie also has a sublime 60s vibe, amplified by the sharpest of suits.
However, while agreeing that it is very well executed and makes some devastating points, there just isn't enough meat in One Night In Miami to prevent it drifting into repetition.
And when the writer seeks their way out of this trap they resort to its most obvious fiction (there is a key reference to a Cooke gig in Boston which apparently didn't happen).
Nevertheless, I can perfectly understand why it is being mentioned in the same breath as potential awards.

Reasons to watch: Fascinating story about four real-life friends
Reasons to avoid: Lots of talk and not much action

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Did you know? 
On December 11, 1964, in response to a reported shooting, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were dispatched to the Hacienda Motel, where they found musician Sam Cooke dead on the office floor, shot three times in the chest by the motel's manager, Bertha Franklin.

The final word. Regina King: "This subject has been present for Black people ever since our history in America has existed. I also thought Kemp’s words were a love letter to the Black man’s experience. As an audience member, I feel like I don’t often get the opportunity to see our men realized onscreen the way we see them in real life." NY Times

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