Although it lacks deep insight, Michael Mann's compelling account of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali captures the considerable impact and charisma of the man who literally punched his way into the American consciousness.
As Ali, Will Smith is vastly impressive, bulked-up and carrying Ali's mannerisms in and out of the ring with clarity. He carries the boxer's cocky charm brilliantly and, in a scene where he jogs down an African street followed by hundreds of chanting locals, his sheer inspiration.
Focusing on the ten-year period that began with Ali's first heavyweight triumph in 1964, Mann uses Ali's out-of-ring struggles against the US government and conversion to Islam as a lens in which to view the tremendous social/political upheavals of the time.
With so much to cram in to 159 minutes, Mann is hampered by merely expressing the bare facts and side-stepping crucial information (his unanimously overturned criminal conviction is never explained, for example).
As such, characters are left underdeveloped and subplots left dangling. With Ali himself, Mann's attempts at humanising - his philandering is quickly glossed over - are all too easily exchanged for Ali The Hero.
Yet Mann dutifully provides an idea of the forces that drove Ali, and when the film threatens to stall, he delivers meticulously-recreated, epic, and thrilling fight scenes.
Though Smith overshadows the entire cast, an unrecognisable Jon Voight excels as veteran sportscaster and paternal friend Howard Cosell. Jamie Foxx also delivers an emotional punch as Ali's beleaguered friend Drew 'Bundini' Brown.
Despite its failings, "Ali" delivers a consistently engaging and involving story of individual heroism which, given the man's revered status, is what many would want. With more attention paid to Ali's psyche, this could have been up there with "Raging Bull", but, buoyed by Smith's tremendous performance, it's still very good.