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Home Boxing “Facing Ali” – A Review
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“Facing Ali” – A Review

facing_aliIf you’ve read any of my boxing reviews or essays, then you might know that I’m a huge Muhammad Ali fan. But when the title “Facing Ali” popped up on my list of recommended movies from Redbox a few weeks ago, I thought, “Oh no. Just what we need. Another Ali movie with grainy footage, and the same old archival soundtracks of Howard Cosell yammering insufferably. Why bother?”

So I deleted the email and went about my business. But within a few minutes, I was drawn back to my Macbook.  In an almost out-of-body experience, I found myself moving the mouse like an automaton as I pulled the email out of the trash. “Maybe I’ll just look at the summary,” I heard myself say. Then I sighed, pulled on my running shoes, and walked down to the nearest Redbox kiosk. I scanned the titles with a certain anticipation, and felt a rush of relief as I saw “Facing Ali” in the available list. I swiped my card and lovingly placed the DVD in my fanny pack and jogged home.

It was a beautiful day in central Arizona and I had every intention of taking a hike in the desert, or popping a few primers at the local gun range. But every time I contemplated the DVD nestled in my pack, my boxing addition kicked in, and I felt a shortness of breath and a quickened heartbeat at the prospect of even the smallest fix. “Hell,” I thought, “even enduring Howard Cosell’s irritating, nasal dronings might be worth a quick peek.”

As soon as I got home I popped the DVD in the player, figuring I’d just check-out the Special Features, and well … that was that. The following two hours passed as if in a dream. And when the film was finished, I poured myself a screwdriver, hit the play button, and watched it again.

I hate to be overly zealous, but I’m going to say something I usually try to avoid, so here goes … If you’re a boxing fan, “Facing Ali,“ from writer/documentary film director, Pete McCormack, is a MUST see.  This is not just another Ali movie.  Not by a long shot.

This film skillfully highlight’s the Great One’s career, not from the perspective of a biographer, but from interviews with ten of his most formidable opponents: Sir Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo, Ernie Terrell, Smokin' Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes.

The chronology of the film stays pretty much on track, but the observations of the participants comes at you from all angles. Sometimes very unexpected angles. It is the reminiscences of these men, memories bronzed in sepia by the passing years, which are the highlights of this highly artistic film. Ali is the thread, and they are the fabric.

One could almost re-title this film “Facing Ali - as remembered by George Chuvalo.” Chuvalo’s superb memory and personal anecdotes are as paramount to the success of this film as are the spectacularly re-mastered video clips.

Ron Lyle was also surprising. His candidness, clarity, and yes, even elegance were quite disarming.  I remember him as the brute who KO’d the monstrously hard-hitting Ernie Shavers, and dropped George Foreman twice in their scintillating 1976 slugfest. This film, however, gives us a window to an entirely different person. Someone whom I might even call endearing.

I hesitate to say much more about “Facing Ali” for fear of ruining it. So let it suffice to say that if you thought you knew these men before this film, believe me, you are in for a major reintroduction.

Charles Long
www.convictedartist.com

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Super Mes  - â€œFacing Ali” – A Review |
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