• by Wes Singleton

One Night in Miami -B+

Rated R, 116 minutes

The superbly drawn and acted new film "One Night in Miami" imagines what it would've been like if several now legendary figures had met to discuss their careers, the Civil Rights movements and their place in society. Based on the play of the same name from Kemp Powers (who also wrote the film's script) and with the directorial debut of Oscar-winner Regina King, while it's occasionally stagey, it's an otherwise fascinating look at some iconic African-American voices.


On the night of Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami, Cassius Clay ("Riverdale's" Eli Goree) joins Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge of "Hidden Figures"), Sam Cooke (Tony-winner Leslie Odom Jr. from "Hamilton") and Malcolm X ("The OA's" Kingsley Ben-Adir), and they discuss the responsibility of being successful black men during the civil rights movement.


"One Night in Miami" is a compelling study of several powerful African-American figures in the U.S., marked by an auspicious directorial debut from King. While not a biographical look at each of the men, it's a nice ensemble sketch with some pertinent discussions on race and society. Taken from Kemp's play, there are some limitations, though King does her best to try to open the play up a little, even if about two-thirds of the film takes place within the confines of a Miami hotel room.


Of the four leads, Odom is the standout as Cooke, providing some gregarious entertainment, as well as his interactions and debates with Malcolm X, nicely shaded by Ben-Adir, though he doesn't come close to the intensity of Denzel Washington, who played the role in Spike Lee's 1992 sprawling biopic "Malcolm X" (but then few could come close to that). Their discussions of race, the Civil Rights movement and their career trajectories have some value given the volatility of race in current society.


While the script and direction are solid, outside of some occasional stageyness, "Miami" also suffers some from slow pacing, but it helps having Odom's Cooke provides some energy to help forward the narrative. "One Night in Miami" is a well-acted, powerful study of revered African-American figures whose impact is still felt today. Definitely worth a look, it’s streaming on Amazon Prime, also with limited theatrical release.