I Am Ali | Chicago Reader

I Am Ali

The title of this Muhammad Ali profile overcompensates for his absence from the project, though the legendary athlete has permitted writer-director Clare Lewins to sample the many cassette tapes of personal phone conversations that he recorded over the years. Talking-head interviews with the fighter's friends (Jim Brown, Tom Jones, Mike Tyson), family (brother Rahman; ex-wife Veronica Porsche; children Hana, Maryum, and Muhammad Jr.); and key business associates (trainer Angelo Dundee; manager Gene Kilroy) contribute to a well-rounded hagiography, and there are some interesting sidebars (photographer Carl Fischer recounts in detail the making of his iconic 1968 Esquire cover with Ali posed as an arrow-riddled Saint Sebastian). As a screen treatment of Ali's life, however, this is outclassed by Michael Mann's epic drama Ali (2001) and such sharply focused documentaries as Leon Gast's When We Were Kings (1996) and Bill Siegel's The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013).

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