Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kinglsey Ben-Adir, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Eli Goree, Lance Reddick, Joaquina Kalukango, Michael Imperioli, Jerome A. Wilson, Beau Bridges, Aaron D. Alexander
Written by: Kemp Powers, based on his play
Directed by: Regina King
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 114
Date: 12/25/2020

One Night in Miami (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

X Factor

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Oscar-winning performer Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) makes her feature directing debut with this impressive drama, which plays like a stargazing Lollapalooza of amazing Black Americans. The idea of Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) — the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali — meeting up with Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) in a Miami hotel room on one night packs enough star power to inspire awed silence. It takes place the night Ali beat Sonny Liston in 1964, and rather than celebrating, he meets with his friends. (Malcolm, who arranges the meeting, doesn't provide any adult beverages, but he remembered the ice cream!) It's based on a play by Kemp Powers (who also wrote and co-directed Soul), and it still feels like a play, fairly talky, and not as dynamic as, say, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. But the talk — about many topics, but mainly about the responsibility these men, as Black Americans, have to help make the world a better place — is incredibly powerful, and undeniably timely. The four performances are superb, and King keeps up a perfect pace, never letting things turn into a slog, but also leaving enough time to digest the rich themes.

At the end of 2021, the Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray, and even though it's available to stream for free for Amazon Prime customers, there are good reasons for picking this up. The audio and video transfer are fantastic, and there's a huge array of extras. There are hours of featurettes in which director King talks with Kasi Lemmons (another actor-turned-director), Barry Jenkins, her cast and crew, and more. There's a featurette on the sound design, a trailer, and a liner notes booklet with an essay by Gene Seymour. The Lemmons/King conversation alone is a keeper. Highly Recommended.

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