on October 23, 1998 by Steve Schneider
   If you've never considered poetry an exciting art, you'll be shocked into radical reevaluation by this white-knuckled portrait of the fiercely competitive National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon. The spoken-word combatants on view exhibit an electrifying hunger, decimating the long-held perception of the poet as reclusive individualist.
   Director Paul Devlin comes to the action from the world of televised sports, and it shows: His unerring instincts illuminate an old-fashioned quest for glory, a tale more akin to "When We Were Kings" than "The Belle of Amherst."
   He finds his Ali in Taylor Mali, an outspoken English teacher whose desire to win is only matched by his revulsion at the hypocrisy of his adversaries. It will be easy for the unconverted to immediately latch onto Mali as the hero of the piece; the gradual realization that he cares little for anything but his own triumph, however, leaves haunting questions about the nature and the future of the "sport."    Starring Saul Williams, Jessica Care Moore, Beau Sia and Taylor Mali. Directed and produced by Paul Devlin. A Slammin' Entertainment production. Documentary. Not rated. Running time: 92 min.
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