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November 15, 2018

Reviews: Amir Khan is a contender in 'Team Khan,' plus more documentaries

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

An exasperatingly slick documentary with a charismatic subject, “Team Khan” follows two years in the rise of British-born Muslim boxer Amir Khan, a dashing champion chasing the ultimate test of greatness: a match against the likes of a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

Directors Blair Macdonald and Oliver Clark secured great access across training sessions, photo-ops, moments with wife Faryal and their 2-year-old daughter, and spirited get-togethers in gray suburban Northwest England with his extended Punjabi clan. If “Team Khan” offers any insight as it aggressively packages him with the familiar tropes of verité sports-doc portraiture, it’s how the closeness of Khan’s relatives — many of whom work for him — keep him grounded behind that high-wattage smile and disciplined drive to make the most of his lightning quick blows.

Built around a few key bouts in Las Vegas and New York meant to set him up for that hoped-for call to challenge a legend, the directors’ “Rocky”-ish approach has its upside (Khan is easy to root for) and downside (is this a film or a commercial?). There are also side trips to cement his philanthropic bona fides, including a trip to Pakistan to show support after 2014’s Peshawar school massacre, and a visit to his ancestral village. If your taste for athletic snapshots has tired of tales of the troubled, Khan’s at least smoothly offers someone as comfortable being a Muslim hero and family man as he is a fast-jabbing contender.