One Night in Miami

An extraordinary event took place on the evening of February 25, 1964. One that began with a boxing match in which a 22-year-old Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title of the world. But that’s not the most remarkable thing to happen that night. That distinction belongs to what unfolded next. Following the fight, a seemingly improbable group of young black men met at the Hampton House Motel in Florida. In attendance were Clay (before changing his name to Muhammed Ali), musician Sam Cooke, star NFL running back Jim Brown, and Nation of Islam minister and civil rights leader Malcolm X.

"is a fun, albeit often discomforting, movie to watch. Tough questions are asked and you may not like the answers."

Though we’ll never know what the actual purpose of the meeting was or the exact details of what was actually discussed, the possibilities laid out in writer Kemp Powers’ and director Regina King’s film called One Night in Miami make for a fascinating “what if” moment that takes place over a single night, in a single hotel room. The moment is so brilliantly captured, and so superbly rendered by everyone involved, it’s highly unlikely that what actually took place that night would match the intensity, earnestness, and relevance of King’s fictional telling.

The film is an adaptation of Powers’ stage play of the same name that won numerous awards during its run in Los Angeles. And while the big screen version is somewhat strapped by the confined nature and staginess of the story’s source locale, first time director Regina King (The Watchmen), with the aid of director of photography Tami Reiker, does a remarkable job of opening up the cinematic experience without losing the intimacy of the moment.

The film picks up at the end of the Clay/Liston fight which saw the former champ beaten so badly he refused to get up off his corner stool, thereby forfeiting the match with a TKO. Newly crowned champ Clay (Eli Goree , Race) then heads over to the Hampton House Hotel – one the Miami-area’s few Green Book inns – where he is to meet up with Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr. , Hamilton), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, TV’s Peaky Blinders), and Brown (Aldis Hodge, The Invisible Man).One Night in Miami

Ostensibly, the gathering is set up by Brother Malcolm to celebrate Clay’s victory. But it is later revealed that the spiritual leader is to set to announce a coming undertaking that might put him in grave personal danger, and he hopes to win Clay’s support. But as the meeting progresses in unexpected ways, the four men engage in spirited debate about their roles as both celebrities and community leaders in an America being torn apart during the Civil Rights movement.

Their debate takes on such weighty topics as: what are the social responsibilities of black celebrities?; can they just be athletes or singers?; or must they find a way to use their fame and celebrity to better the Black cause? Of course there are no easy answers. The enjoyment comes in watching these four strong yet vulnerable black men discuss heir dilemma. Major credit goes to Powers whose dialogue, as delivered by the cast, is captivatingly raw and always feels real. As pertinent as it was in 1964, every word uttered in the film still resonates to this day.

King et al. certainly faced challenges with casting the roles that centered on not just real people, but actual pop culture legends of the time. Each of the actors – particularly Odom and Ben-Adir – manages to capture the spirit and mannerisms of their characters without tipping over into caricature – an attribute crucial to the film’s believability. The chemistry on display from the leads is remarkably palpable, especially considering that the actors had little to no rehearsal time. Don’t be surprised to see any of their names pop up at awards time.

One Night in Miami is a fun, albeit often discomforting, movie to watch. Tough questions are asked and you may not like the answers. But the acting firepower on hand coupled with the emotionally and intellectually stimulating conversation about a very difficult topic forces us to spend a lot of time attempting to reconcile our own thoughts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a smarter film this year.

5/5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

One Night in Miami


Home Video Distributor:
Available on Blu-ray

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Film Details:

One Night in Miami

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
114 mins
: Regina King
Kemp Powers
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge
: Drama
Four Legends, One legendary night.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Amazon Studios
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Release Date:
January 8, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
Synopsis: One Night in Miami is a fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.


One Night in Miami