There have been numerous film bio's made on the life of Cassius Marcellus Jr. Clay/Muhummad Ali, and I would rank this attempt as one of the stronger film biographies. Ali is not one of the most prolific sport phenomenons of the 20th century, because without a doubt "He is the "Greatest", bar no other individual, identifiable sports figure of the 20th century with strong roots also as a recognizable social activist. Ali: An American Hero is a made for TV biography but don't hold that against the films content. The film comprises 85 minutes of non-stop history of this most famous black athlete and social activist who fought for what he truly believed in, which more than anything else was his belief in himself and his right to his freedom of religion and his own choices in his personal life, whether they infuriated his fans, friends and even his own family.
I have watched intently the trials and tribulations of Muhummad Ali over these past 50 years from his victorious heavyweight championship fight as a young 22 year old loud mouth versus the unbeatable monster Sonny Liston on national television, to his current travels which have taken him around the world several times as an ambassador for peace and understanding of a persons' right to religious freedom. His fight against the U.S. government in 1967 to avoid enlistment as a soldier in the Vietnam War took away four years of his prime fighting career between the ages of 25-29, and in spite of this involuntary absence from the professional boxing ring, (his heavyweight title was also stripped unfairly from him) his fan support dwindled, his income ability was strangled, but still he would not be intimidated, denied, nor would he ever surrender, as the film depicts.
Ali, the greatest fighter in and out of the ring, persevered against all odds and won his battle for religious freedom in the Nation of Islam as well as for every other American who otherwise would have had to go into a war they did not believe in. Ali, stated freely that he was offered a role to simply demonstrate his loyalty to the United States government and he would only have to appear in boxing exhibitions for the troops (as former heavyweight champion Joe Louis did before him), but he said no to this offer because it would not be fair to all the other conscientious objectors to the war that would not be offered the same free pass as he was being offered.
Ali is played by character actor David Ramsey, (who currently (2011-2014) plays New York City's Mayor Carter Poole in the hit television police series Blue Bloods). David Ramsey portrayed Ali as a man with the charisma and confidence that embodied the real Ali during his religious awakening in the Nation of Islam. I am going to assume that since the film only provided 85 minutes for this biography Ali's real life theatrics in front of the camera which were sometimes extreme, and his history of womanizing, (he has been married four times, he has a total of nine children, two of which are from separate extra marital affairs), was downplayed. There were strong supporting roles played by Clarence Williams III (best known for the 1970's TV series The Mod Squad) as Ali's proud father Marcellus Clay, Joe Morton as Malcolm X, and a superb performance by Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ali's corner man Drew Bundini Brown most known for the rumble in the jungle lingo that he and Ali would repeat again and again "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Awww, Rumble young man, rumble!!!"
I really enjoyed this film, and I am quite sure that as the years continue to pass us by and Ali's legend continues to grow, this 2000 film's interest will also grow. Ali is a true champion on so many levels, and actor David Ramsey answered the bell with a knock out performance. I rated it a winning combination with an 8 out of 10 rating. You should not be disappointed.