ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – Review By Gadi Elkon

Oscar-winning actress Regina King’s feature film debut is a moving account of four tremendous figures experiencing the highs and lows of their culturally impacting statuses.  Here is my full review of One Night In Miami.

On one incredible night in 1964, four icons of sports, music, and activism gathered to celebrate one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. When underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be called Muhammad Ali, (Eli Goree), defeats heavy weight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall, Clay memorialized the event with three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge).

Playwright and Director Kemp Powers has had a wonderful year with SOUL and now ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI being released mere weeks apart.

Powers fictional yet gripping words are award-winning in their telling of this groundbreaking moment.  Regina King’s acting chops must have add a real gravitas to her feature film debut as Eli, Kingsley, Leslie and Aldis deliver honest portrayals of their iconic real life figures.  The film gracefully moves through the warm Miami landscape to create a comforting look back at this 40-year-old evening.  The sense of security and fear bubbles over as the emotions of these men hits at the racial and religious injustice plaguing their communities.  A yin-yang verbal battle between Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X and Leslie Odom Jr’s Sam Cooke keeps the tension constant and adds incredible timely truth the 1960 setting and our current divided America.  It is a film that not only will seem historically significant but completely modern with the harsh reality of their struggles remaining in society.

Cinematographer Tami Reiker’s action film and television background acts both as a comfort for King’s own career but expands the main setting of a hotel nightly encounter into something massive.  The intros of the four famous men adds enough context and excitement to perfectly allow the mainly verbal emotional ebb and flow just as hard-hitting.  The words sting just as strong as Ali’s jabs.  The intros though also set the stage of struggle that still exist in these successful men.  We get to witness the subtle and overt racism that constantly weighed these guys down.  Regina and Kemp also give a lovely treatment of Malcolm’s earth shattering defection from the Nation of Islam by detailing it through conversations with his wife and his 3 famous cohorts.

What really pushes the film into another impactful level is Terence Blanchard’s timeless musical choices.  The film has a real seamless ability to uplift the play into a full film.  Editor Tariq Anwar and Regina King’s choice to linger on the men’s verbal encounters makes for a more poignant and provocative cinematic experience.  I most enjoyed Sam Cooke’s story being highlighted and given a real zenith of importance.

A rare film that bridges the gap of being timely and timeless.

Don’t miss this prized fight level film.  It releases theatrically today and on Amazon Prime on January 15th.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI

Directed by: Regina King

Written by: Kemp Powers (based on his award winning play).

Rated R

Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars

Running Time: 1 hour 54 min

Drama

Limited Release: Select Theaters Today and available on Amazon Prime on Jan 15th.

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

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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