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Don King: Only In America


Don King: Only In America

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When HBO's Don King biopic premiered on pay cable last year, King was reportedly so upset by the film's portrayal of him that he stopped doing business with the network as a form of retribution. But while Only In America wouldn't be bold or insane enough to represent King as anything resembling a heroic figure, it still does justice to his story, transforming him from the cartoonish villain of the public's consciousness into a fire-breathing, larger-than-life dynamo who, while amoral and ruthless, is also savvy, charismatic, and an unstoppable force of nature. By the end of Only In America, you don't admire King, but you appreciate the mixture of limitless chutzpah, superhuman drive, and Machiavellian maneuvering he employed on his way to the top. While far from comprehensive—the film focuses almost exclusively on King's professional career, while ignoring all but the most basic facts of his private life—Only In America presents an often-spellbinding account of his rise. King works through a seemingly impossible series of obstacles—evil dictators, the mob, jail, racism, white promoters, his own insatiable greed, and a host of others—on his way to becoming one of the richest and most powerful men in sports. As powerfully rendered by Ving Rhames, in what could well be the performance of his career, King is a tragic figure of almost Shakespearean proportions: a man whose gargantuan appetites for money and power are only matched by his phenomenal ability to manipulate people and situations to his advantage. Rhames' King may not be heroic, but he's electrifying to watch and impossible to ignore.