In theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime, One Night in Miami follows Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali), Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke on the night in 1964 that Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. On the verge of announcing his conversion to the Nation of Islam, Clay (Eli Goree) seeks counsel from Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), who comes into conflict with Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) over their differing approaches to civil rights…and how they should celebrate the night.
Directed by the wonderful Regina King, One Night in Miami is based on a stage play and it retains much of the aura of a good play. The emphasis remains on the dialogue with simple sets and not many characters. In some respects, the paired down nature of the story makes this movie the most boring ever set in Miami (at least that I’ve seen), but in others it leaves a lot of breathing room for the ideas that the main characters are working through. I think the effect is pretty uneven. The engagement of historical ideas about the Civil Rights Movement is so important that I found those parts riveting, but at other scenes I was barely tracking what was going on.
Nevertheless, the performances in this movie are outstanding. It was an adjustment to see someone other than Denzel Washington playing Malcolm X, but Kingsley Ben-Adir does a wonderful job of portraying the civil rights leader in a vulnerable time in his life. Often in this story he is a self-righteous pain, but the performance balances his passion and his fear well. Eli Goree really stands out as Cassius Clay, funny, charming, and a total ham. His character anchors the whole group together and Goree provides the magnetism necessary for that role. I would have liked to have seen more of Leslie Odom Jr singing, because those were the only moments when I really thought he was compelling as Sam Cooke. Aldis Hodge has several scenes key to the story and in each he is excellent.
One Night in Miami was directed by Regina King and written by Kemp Powers based on his stage play. It runs 1 hour 54 minutes and is rated R for language throughout.
Since the pandemic started, I have rolled my eyes many times at how tv shows handle masks and other precautions. For example, on Law and Order: SVU there is no consistency to who wears masks when and then they take them off to talk to each other! It’s silly. Why bother, really? So I was interested to see how a movie set in London’s first lockdown would handle the pandemic. Locked Down, in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, is just as inconsistent with masks as it is with what genre of movie it is trying to be.
Locked Down follows Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Linda (Anne Hathaway) as they are stuck together during a breakup after a ten year relationship. The CEO of a media company, Linda is trying to handle layoffs and a budding drinking problem while Paxton struggles to find and keep work with his criminal record. When Linda is put in charge of retrieving a multi-million dollar diamond from Harrods, she decides she and Paxton should steal it. Will they steal it? Are they still in love? Why is there a hedgehog in this movie? There’s a lot up in the air, but the jewel heist feels largely tacked-on without the fun of a traditional heist movie. It is all pretty disjointed and well-written at the same time, with subtle jokes that playout over the course of the story.
I will say, compared to the Zoom call productions I saw at the beginning of the pandemic, the acting to conference call in this movie is a vast improvement. Anne Hathaway is so unlikeable as Linda that it almost made me understand the unjustified hatred directed toward her in pop culture. Meanwhile, as Paxton, Chiwetel Ejiofor is also pretty unlikeable. The combination of the two somehow made me root for them to stay together even as I totally understood why they were breaking up. They had a lot of chemistry while also clearly depicting the cabin fever of the lockdowns.
Locked Down was directed by Doug Liman and written by Steven Knight. It runs 1 hour 58 minutes and is rated R.