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One Night in Miami


Stars: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Leslie Odom Jr, Aldis Hodge, Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson, Beau Bridges, Lance Reddick

Director: Regina King

Another play-based drama that still leaves us feeling like we're sitting in the sixth row of the stalls. The film begins well but soon develops into a talkathon that takes some enduring.

The fictional premise - although all four protagonists did know each other - is that four of America's most influential black people, civil rights advocate Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), newly-crowned boxing champ Cassius Clay (Goree), singer Sam Cooke (Odom Jr) and sportsman/embryonic film star Jim Brown (Hodge) gathered together in a Miami motel room the night after Clay, soon to become Muhammad Ali, had taken the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston.

They chew the fat, shoot the breeze and listen to Malcolm X's beliefs in what they should do to promote the black American cause. Malcolm X comes poorly out of this - as a man unwilling to listen to anyone's point of view but his own - while Brown comes across as the most grounded of the four.

He's central to the film's most shocking moment when he visits an influential fan (Bridges), shares drinks on the veranda of his host's home. But when he offers to help Bridges fix something, he's told 'We don't allow n-----s inside the house.'

The film springs back to life again towards the end, its (few) action scenes are well staged, and Odom's rendition of Cooke's vocals is well-nigh incredible. Just a shame that debutante director King is never able to overcome the film's basic flaw: it's a play, guys, and it still looks like one.

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Amazon Studios. Colour by FotoKem.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 12 Jan 2021