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THE MOVIE GUY — One Fascinating Night in Miami

“One Night in Miami”

ABKCO Films

Directed by Regina King

Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom, Jr.

Rated R

 

3 ½ Stars

 

One night in February of 1964, Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston and was crowned the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. That’s all in the public record.

What’s not so well known is that Clay, who would soon change his name to Muhammad Ali, spent his post-victory night with the political activist Malcolm X, the football star Jim Brown and the soul singer Sam Cooke.

Playwright Kemp Powers has imagined what these four men might have talked about on the night after the boxing match. In his imagination, they spoke about their hopes and fears, and what it meant to be a Black celebrity in the middle of the civil rights movement.

There’s no historical basis for Kemp’s play, but the conversation is absolutely fascinating. It’s a revelatory peek into the conflicted minds of these four men who had such an impact on society in the 1960s.

The main thrust of the film revolves around Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) discussing their future within the Nation of Islam. Both men are at the crossroads, dealing with demands of their religious beliefs as well as their public personas.

We watch as a schism starts to form between these two friends.

Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.) show up expecting a party, but end up being drawn into the discussion. Brown is thinking about giving up football in favor of going to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies.

Cooke struggles to keep up the pleasant demeanor of a pop star, and he bristles at the thought that he should be making protest music instead of churning out light and fluffy pop records.

Indeed, all four men struggle with what they should be doing for the civil rights cause. Fortunately, all four actors are adept at bring these struggles to life.

Credit Ben-Adir, Goree, Hodge and Odom, Jr. for their obvious talent, but save some of the kudos for Power’s screenplay as well as Regina King in her directorial debut. That’s right, the acclaimed actress has taken up the director’s mantle and proved that she very good at bringing her vision to life. Nobody is supposed to be this good on the first try.

Don’t be surprised when King gets an Academy Award nomination for her work here. The same should hold true for the actors, screenplay and the film itself.

You don’t have to take my word for it. “One Night in Miami” has been playing in movie theaters, but the film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Given the intimate nature of this movie, I think it might play better on your home television screen.

No matter how you see it, you should definitely make time for “One Night in Miami,” a film that is a fascinating character study as well as a thought-provoking exploration of race in society. As I said, in my opinion it’s easily one of the best films of the year.

 

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.