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Don King: Only in America Reviews

As fast-moving as a flurry of overhand punches, DON KING ONLY IN AMERICA provides an insider's look at the business of boxing through the perspective of the sport's most notorious promoter. The film was made for HBO and subsequently released to home video. In Cleveland, 1954, Don King (Ving Rhames) kills a burglar in his house. In 1966, King, who now runs a small numbers racket, consorts with the mob and hangs out with singer and good friend Lloyd Price (Vondie Curtis Hall). King finds he needs instant cash after a run-in with a gangster to whom he owes protection money. King finds and beats to death a man who is late paying him back a debt; he subsequently serves six years in prison for the murder. In prison, he considers a career as a boxing promoter. Upon his release, King puts together a successful charity match, convincing heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali (Darius McCrary) to participate. King then partners with satellite-feed entrepreneur Hank Schwartz (Jeremy Piven). Together, they innovate the "pay-per-view" concept, and make a killing on a fight between George Foreman (Jarrod Bunch) and Joe Frazier (Israel Cole). Sensing that Ali could be his meal ticket, King steals him away from a rival promoter and arranges for him to fight Foreman in Africa, naming the confrontation "the Rumble in the Jungle." The fight is a tremendous success financially. After King encounters difficulties promoting another Ali fight, he shifts his focus and begins promoting the rookies with the help of his son Carl (Lahmard Tate). He eventually owns a piece of most of the American title-belt holders, including Larry Holmes (Danny Johnson), who winds up beating Ali, which ends the champ's career and sends King to the top of the boxing world. Holmes reveals his hatred for King, whom he accuses of stealing most of the fighter's hard-earned money. Years pass, and King moves on to represent Mike Tyson (Clifford Couser), reaping rewards from his illustrious ring career. Boxing fans will find few surprises here, but it should be noted that the filmmakers do take an unusually harsh view of their subject (unusual for a cable-feature), painting him as a first-rate con artist who essentially bled his fighters dry. The film does, however, occasionally attempt to convey King's charisma, attempting to explain how he was so easily able to convince, cajole, and deceive so many people. In this regard, Rhames is the whole show. He captures the cartoonlike essence of the flamboyant, shock-haired King familiar to fight fans in a frame device seen throughout the film, but also impresses as the younger King, who had less confidence, less money, and more of a conscience. Kario Salem's script and director John Herzfeld's stylish visuals keep the film moving along at a fast clip; of particular note are the fight scenes, which are superbly choreographed and edited. The inclusion of a segment dealing with the notorious Tyson-Holyfield bout (which ended with Tyson biting off a part of Holyfield's ear) skews the film's focus for a short while, but does nothing to blunt the film's overall power. (Violence, extreme profanity.)