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Undisputed (2002), the prison boxing movie featuring Wesley Snipes in his prime.

August 7, 2017

MY CALL:  This is a surprisingly decent movie and so much more than just a fight movie. Snipes and Rhames do great in and out of the ring.  MORE MOVIES LIKE UndisputedWell, you should absolutely watch the sequels all the way through Boyka: Undisputed IV (2017)! Other prison fight movies about illegal competition/fighting rings include The Condemned (2007) and The Running Man (1987). Other worthwhile unconventional boxing films include Gladiator (1992) and Diggstown (1992).

Director Walter Hill (Bullet to the Head, Last Man Standing, Red Heat, The Warriors) brings us the kind of organized prison competition that clearly influenced the style and pattern of Death Race (2008; based on 1975’s Death Race 2000). But where this differs from its sequels and other influenced successors is that this is no “action flick.” This is actually a pretty solid movie that doesn’t need to rely solely on its action.

Charged for a crime he denies committing, heavyweight boxing champ (46-1-0) George “The Iceman” Chambers (Ving Rhames; Piranha 3D, the Mission: Impossible series) finds himself in the very same prison as another purported 68-0 “undefeated champ” of the California State Inter-Prison Boxing Program.  Naturally, he questions the validity of any such claims in boxing greatness. “There’s only one champ in here!”

We first meet Munroe Hutchin (Wesley Snipes; The Expendables 3, Blade 1-3, Rising Sun) dismantling a much larger opponent (Nils Allen Stewart; Bloodsport 2, The Quest, Barb Wire) while showing off his jacked body and surgically vicious technique.  He’s the Iceman’s opposite in every way, in and out of the ring.

The venerable, imprisoned mob boss Mendy (Peter Falk; Next, The Princess Bride), his right-hand man Chuy (Jon Seda; Bad Boys II, Bullet to the Head) and Hutchins’ corner man Ratbag (Fisher Stevens; Hackers, Awake) plant the seeds of competition, taunting the Iceman and questioning his skill.  Meanwhile, Iceman’s cellmate Mingo (Wes Studi; The Last of the Mohicans, Penny Dreadful) and manager Yank (Dayton Callie; Sons of Anarchy, Halloween II) try to steer him from trouble during his sentence.  They set up a high stakes fight between the two champs.

Unlike subsequent movies in which the wealthy warden runs the show (often through criminal means), the head prison guard Mercker (Michael Rooker; Guardians of the Galaxy Vols. 1-2, The Belko Experiment, The Walking Dead) coordinates and serves as the official for the fight.

Two things kept this movie from being great. For one thing, the training scenes were weak. Where’s my training montage? Secondly, the championship bout had no scoring. When Rocky fought Ivan Drago (Rocky IV) the action choreography was great, brutal, and well-staged to cue up emotion—but what truly catalyzed the experience was War playing in the background.  However, this movie makes every effort (and often successfully) to be substantial. So it should come as no surprise that the boxing/fighting scenes are not numerous. But when we get them, they’re good!  Not outstanding (like Rocky IV), but they bask in the excitement of seeing two well-known chiseled actors in the ring instead of an A-list hero and some no-name-actor foe.

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