Sunday, December 27, 2020

One Night in Miami - Movie Review

The Movie: One Night in Miami

The Director: Regina King

The Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson, Beau Bridges, Lance Reddick

The Story: One Night in Miami is a fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.

The Review:
I learned while watching this movie that it is based on a stage play that is based on a fictional accounting of an actual night where Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown all shared an evening together. It's pretty easy to imagine the conversations playing out as we see them in this story with egos and ideals clashing while the bonds of friendship only grow stronger. As the story plays out, I felt like the actors, and Regina King as director, had a solid grasp on the personalities of each of the men and the material is so good it allowed King to keep things small to focus on the conversations above anything else.

Kingsley Ben-Adir may have had the toughest as Malcolm X I mean since Denzel's portrayal of the man is one of the single greatest and most iconic acting performances I have ever seen, anyone would have a hard time living up to any inevitable comparison. That being said, I had zero issues with his performance and he embodies the legendary man in his own way and yet is still recognizable as what we already know. Eli Goree as Cassius Clay on the other hand, I felt was too restrained and didn't embody the larger than life personality nearly as much as he could have. There are hints of the style and flair but they're not nearly enough to really sell me on him being the self proclaimed "Greatest of All Time!"

Not knowing what Sam Cooke or Jim Brown sounded or acted like, I was totally fine with the work put in by Leslie Odom Jr. and Aldis Hodge respectively to bring those characters to life. For Odom, the important thing was nailing the singing scenes and if anyone on this planet is capable of recreating the vocal stylings of Mr. Cooke it would have to be him. The four together are strong enough to carry the meaty material they are given and I really enjoyed the back and forth arguments, debates, teasing, and all other types of conversation they engage in over the course of the movie.

The topics that are discussed, racism, classism, economics, diversity, religion, and generally the plight of being black in the 60's are all hard hitting and are unfortunately still very relevant to this day. A lot of the things they talk about, especially when it comes to racism, are things we are still talking about in 2020 and especially during this summer when protests became a significant part of a year that will be known for having many significant parts. King handles the transition from stage play to the screen pretty well although I would have liked to have seen a more cinematic quality to the production. As is it looks like a really good quality TV show and there's nothing wrong with that. Especially for a first time feature director who has primarily worked in TV shows prior to this project.

The Verdict:
One Night in Miami is a very strong effort from Regina King and the cast makes this stage play adaptation an extremely watchable and solid success story. The movie is heavy on drama although never goes over the top which keeps everything at a sort of even emotional level.

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