Director: Don Cheadle
Bifrost Pictures/Miles Davis Properties, LLC/Sony Pictures Classics
In a boldly absurd almost blindly idiotic move Don Cheadle decides to simply invent a story for his Miles Davis impersonation. Here we have Cheadle as a more than passable Miles (not as great as some would tell you, but certainly as decent as would be needed even in a far better movie) getting lost inside an absurd set of car-chases and gun-fights as the idea of an impressionistic recasting of Davis’ lost years (his retirement from 1975-79) dives off the deep end in the way that can happen when the star is the writer and director as well.
Ewan McGregor is once again terrible (the most overrated one-note actor of the last 20 years?) as fictional Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden. The hack barges in on a retired Miles and claims he’s there for the big comeback story, to capture the Prince of Darkness as he attempts to get off the street-drugs and ciggies and pick up the damn horn again. It’s not a great start but you hope it might go somewhere.
Unfortunately that framing device soon opens up a ludicrous set of car-chases as the pair become a Danny Glover-Mel Gibson trope and head off to look for a lost tape of Miles jamming.
Before that we have Davis ringing up the radio station to lambast them and request his good, old stuff not just the weary nostalgia nods.
Oh god it is awful.
There are flashbacks to the Miles of the 50s, when he was actually making an album called Miles Ahead. These serve simply to show Cheadle in a suit and without a silly wig and glasses. We also meet Miles’ first wife and get the tamed-down versions of violence that seemed so similarly absurd in the recent James Brown biopic.
But Miles Ahead lags way behind that atrocity. No, this deserves to sit alongside the recent Nina Simone botch-job as one of the biggest wastes of time, talent and money (more of the talent in this film too by the way). In the panic of worrying what they might have a Miles Davis character do on the screen they forget the music, throw pretty much everything that matters out the window and then anything fantastical they can find gets hurled at the screen.
It’s a joke. A sick, cruel joke. This attempt to “improvise” is clearly the intended cleverness of this hackneyed story and storytelling. And it doesn’t work at all. It makes a mockery of one of jazz music’s heroes. And Cheadle – a decent director it seems, from the way the
screen is lit down to the pacing and placing of flashbacks, and also a very good actor – has only himself to blame for fucking this up so brutally. McGregor was always going to be awful. That’s all he does and all he is. But Cheadle will walk along forever after this with the knowledge that he killed the one chance of a decent film about one of his heroes. He ruined it for so many of us. How this got the green light is a mystery. Clearly so long in development they just decided it had to one day exist. It feels like a 48 Hour Film Project attempt at honing a script and rushing through a set of performances.