One Night in Miami

On 25 February 1964, Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay) seized the world heavyweight boxing title from Sonny Liston in a huge upset. To celebrate, Ali spends the evening with his old friends, singer-songwriter Sam Cook, football legend Jim Brown and Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X for “One Night in Miami.”

Laura's Review: B

Robin's Review: B-

Regina King makes her directorial debut with the adaptation of the first-timer one-act play by Kemp Powers, who also adapted the screenplay. The result has the look and feel of a theatrical production with social, racial and populist viewpoints abounding at a time when these four young men were on the cusp of the civil rights movement.

The small but capable ensemble cast, portraying four Black historical icons in a play that puts forth clever and socially meaningful dialogue and a “what if this really happened” vibe. Of the four players, I found that Eli Goreem, playing the newly-minted Muhammad Ali, a good combination of self-assured arrogance and vulnerability of a man on the threshold of greatness. Leslie Odom Jr., as soul man Sam Cook, has the right combination of resembling the man in both looks and husky voice. Kingsley Ben-Adir, as Malcolm X, resembles the activist and puts forth his pro-Islam rhetoric but the activist’s signature horn-rimmed eyeglasses dominate the character. I am not sure if Aldis Hodge captures the tone of football great Jim Brown, but the actor does not resemble the athlete-turned-actor, taking me out of the moment with the character.

The structure of the film adheres to its theatrical roots but director King does not make the motel suite feel claustrophobic and allows the characters to fill their space and make their meaningful speeches. Doing so, the story puts forth the tone of the time of the fast-approaching civil rights movement and the men in the room will be its leaders. It is a solid ensemble effort and deserves some thoughtful consideration of what they say.

Laura's Score: B

"One Night in Miami" premieres in theaters on 1/8/2021 and on Amazon Prime on 1/15/2021.