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Regina King’s Feature Directorial Debut ‘One Night in Miami’ Is A Stunning Piece Of Cinema – Review

Actor-director Regina King makes her feature directorial debut with the One Night in Miami. The film is based on the play of the same name by Kemp Powers and focuses on a fictionalized gathering between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in 1964 after Clay’s title win over Sonny Liston. 

One Night in Miami gives the audience a glimpse into what a gathering of these four greats might have been like in juxtaposition to the events affecting their lives and the world at that particular moment in time. Truly a collision of great minds, One Night in Miami is both a love letter to these monumental men while also providing a window into the ups and downs of their fame, and ultimately their lives.

One Night in Miami - Still
Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Eli Goree as Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami (Courtesy of Snook Entertainment/ABKCO)

Dealing with four larger-than-life figures in One Night in Miami, King manages to allow each of them and the actors portraying them to shine. We have Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke and Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown. Of course, the cast is packed with talent. Each and every moment the stars are on-screen (whether separately or together), are moments that are truly award-worthy. It is abundantly clear that each actor put their all into their portrayals. While each of them were great, the standouts for me are Goree and Clay and Odom Jr. as Cooke.

Goree is the newcomer amongst the group and he holds his own against more veteran actors in his portrayal of the boxing champion. Goree’s utterance of “Oh my goodness…why am I so pretty?” perfectly captures the youthful confidence of Cassius in a single instance. While he knows what is happening around him, he is on a high he doesn’t want to come down from after his recent win. Goree does a phenomenal job at showcasing just how Clay is both at odds with his newfound fame, but also relishes in it. On the other hand, you have Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke who has enjoyed fame for some time now, but is being questioned about what he’s doing for the community by Malcolm X at every turn. This makes for some heated arguments between Odom Jr.’s Cooke and Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X. 

Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown in One Night in Miami (Courtesy of Snook Entertainment/ABKCO)

These instances make for some of the film’s best moments and watching these actors step into their roles is truly a sight to behold. That being said, One Night in Miami is a bit of a slow burn. However, the end results are well worth it. Although based on a stage play of the same name, King does a particularly good job at making the happenings of One Night in Miami not seem like everything is only happening in the Miami hotel room. Much of the film is understated and that makes the emotional beats all the more compelling, including the differences between the lives of these four men.

In Clay, you have a rising star athlete with a bright future ahead of him. In Brown, you have an already beloved and legendary football player about to do things his way (like becoming an actor). In Cooke and Malcolm, you have two game-changers who should have tremendous futures ahead of them (just like their friends) but are unknowingly nearing the end of their lives. While you can see this is something that Malcolm is already dreading based on his words and actions throughout the film, you have the on-the-brink of superstardom Cooke, unaware of his fate. Although, the other two have many difficulties ahead of them, they are on brighter paths. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch and everything about the directing and writing brings all of these conflicting feelings together in a beautiful way.

It is truly a testament to King’s directing and Powers’ writing skills that maintain the balance in the all of the opposing ideas, beliefs and fates, while still basking in the light that is these men’s bond.

One Night in Miami will have a limited theatrical release on December 25 before arriving on Amazon Prime Video on January 25, 2021.

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