Fevered 'One Night in Miami' imagines confluence of 1960s Black icons

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Posted at 1:35 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 14:35:09-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "One Night in Miami" packs the appeal of a superhero crossover movie. Its four lead characters are all worthy of films of their own, and the hook is in the way they interact. When an irresistible force meets three other equally irresistible forces, you get fireworks that will resonate into the century ahead.

Director Regina King rounds up an impressive ensemble cast of actors who embrace their iconic roles with enthusiasm and nuance.

Kingsley Ben-Adair plays civil rights leader Malcolm X, Eli Goree is Cassius Clay -- who would shortly after change is name to Muhammad Ali -- Leslie Odom Jr. plays singer Sam Cooke and Aldis Hodge rounds out the crew as football legend Jim Brown.

The historical fiction drama -- based on a stage play by Kemp Powers -- imagines the conversations and hijinks that unfolded a legendary night in February 1964 when the power players gathered to celebrate Clay's victory over Sonny Liston. The movie, which is in Oscar contention, debuts Jan. 15 on Prime Video.

The story is all the more relevant in a time of racially-charged social upheaval that may come to be seen as rivaling that of the 60s.

Each of the actors manages to capture the panache of their subjects without stepping over the line into grandstanding. King does an admirable job of orchestrating the combustible talents, giving each a fair voice and share of screen time.

While the momentum loses its way at times, the majesty of the titans manages to keep the fire stoked. Much of the pleasure of the film comes in seeing the way the hard men let down their guards to show their whimsy and vulnerability.

Egos clash, ideas are bandied about and alliances are forged. Seeds are planted for Brown and Ali's lifelong social justice crusades, as well as the boldness that would determine the trajectories of the careers and legacies of others. Malcolm X and Cooke would be dead within a year of the film's events.

But all of the men were so vibrant and spirited that they never truly passed away. Their ideas, influence and wisdom live on.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
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