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Review: Powerful 'One Night in Miami' exists somewhere between fact and fiction

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One Night in Miami (Photo: Patti Perret/Amazon Studios)

One Night in Miami
4 out of 5 Stars
Regina King
Writer: Kemp Powers
Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Genre: Drama
Rated: R

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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston. Following the fight, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown joined Clay in a hotel room to celebrate.

Review: We know that on February 25, 1964, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Cassius Clay (soon to be Muhammad Ali) gathered in a hotel room following Clay’s victory over Sonny Liston. What they talked about isn’t known.

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“One Night in Miami” is a fact-based fantasy. Kemp Powers imagines, based on the major decisions that each man made in the coming months, what they might have talked about. It made for fantastic theater in 2013 and now, in 2021, it makes for an equally compelling film. Adapted by Powers and directed by Regina King in her feature debut behind the camera, “One Night in Miami” retains the intimacy of a live performance while also expanding the visual palette to give the drama a cinematic sheen. It’s similar to what we saw with Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” only King and cinematographer Tami Reiker are working in a tighter space. This appears to have forced the duo to be more creative with their shots. I think it works marvelously.

As do the performances. Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown and Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke all have their scene-stealing moments. I’m much too young to know how accurate the portrayals are. I can say that they are incredibly effective. We’re offered a look behind the massive egos to reveal a group of friends with incredibly different personalities. Despite their clashing personalities, these four men, driven together by the spotlight of fame, fight with and love each other as family. There’s a particularly vicious exchange between Malcolm X and Sam Cooke that would be unforgivable if it didn’t come from a place of love and mutual frustration.

The words are fabricated. The spirit of the men's unity of purpose and division of how to reach their common goal is absolutely real. You can have one destination in mind and take many different roads to get there.