The first time Don Cheadle lifts a horn to his lips in Miles Ahead, there’s an immediate smash cut to squealing tires and gunshots. That single moment offers a snapshot of Cheadle’s misguided kinda-biopic, which looks insistently away from Miles Davis’ musical genius to focus on an action-movie fantasy that fails to offer any insights into the legendary trumpeter as either an artist or a human being.
In a sense, it’s admirable that Cheadle should so vehemently avoid a boilerplate cradle-to-grave biopic; Davis, after all, was a stubbornly unconventional artist whose attitudes and contributions would seem to refute such a tired and predictable genre. But it’s hard to imagine him finding much interest in Cheadle’s invented heist scenario, which would feel equally trite if not for the oddity of its central figure. The action itself is familiar and dull, other than the fact that instead of Jason Statham or Wesley Snipes aiming a gun, it’s one of the most innovative and influential voices of modern music.