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Film Review: One Night in Miami

January 11, 2021
By: Fritz Esker

Based on a play by Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami is a compelling film, even if it does still feel a bit stagey.

On the night that Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) fought against Sonny Liston in 1964, Ali gathers Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) in a hotel room. There's not much plot, just a lot of conversations between the four men about civil rights and their different approaches to the cause.

The star of the show is Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke. Odom's an accomplished singer (he played Aaron Burr in Hamilton), but it's still impressive how well he handles Cooke's musical scenes. A scene where Cooke captivates a restless audience with a performance of "Chain Gang," even though his mic is out and his band has quit, is the best in the film.

Filmed in the New Orleans area, One Night in Miami marks the directorial debut of Regina King (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for If Beale Street Could Talk). It's a solid debut, and King is a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.

One Night in Miami is playing at theaters and on Amazon Prime.

*** Stars (Out of Four)

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