One Night in Miami (2020)

Regina King has been on a massive role recently with the projects that she has acted in, from If Beale Street Could Talk to HBO’s Watchmen. She has done a lot of television directing as well and this movie, One Night in Miami, was her feature film directorial debut.

One Night in Miami is a fictionalized story of one night in Miami when four black iconic superstars met together and discussed their lives and their place in history. The four icons were Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) [pre Muhammad Ali], Sam Cooke (Leslie Odam Jr), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) who were together in a hotel room on the night when Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the champion of the world.

This was another movie that was based on a stage play, this time written by Kemp Powers. There have been several successful films recently that have been base don plays and this falls right into the line with those. Because One Night in Mimi takes place mostly within the room with the four men and it features some stellar dialogue and discussions between these characters.

And that was great.

There were limited amount of action, and, truly, the plot was not the focus of the film either, the performances were wonderful and the drama between the four of them kept the viewers glued to the screen. I know I was fascinated to hear where they took it from here. The main conflict seemed to stem from Malcom X’s desire to have Sam Cooke do more than just record fluff musical pieces and the wish that he would do more substantive work for the Civil Rights movement. While Clay and Brown got into disagreements as well, the interactions between Malcolm X and Cooke were the main event.

The direction was stunning as well. Regina King does a fantastic job with the shots, giving so much more depth to the hotel room than what you would expect a director could. With the limited settings, King is anything but restricted with her vision of the evening’s activities.

One Night in Miami is smart, compelling and feels very relevant in the ways of power and how one may yield it to benefit everyone. All four actors give tremendous performances, especially Leslie Odam Jr. and Kingsley Ben-Adir, who go at each other with a ferocity unexpected. This is an amazing debut for Regina King.

4 stars

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