Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Film Review: Undisputed (2002)

Undisputed (Review)
United States/2002
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a well-balanced and well-paced film."

The heavyweight champion of the world, George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), is convicted of rape and sent to a prison called Sweetwater, where another champ reigns supreme...
 
Undisputed follows Iceman in this prison located in the Mojave Desert. Egotistical and powerful, Iceman causes a ruckus and makes it clear — he's not to be messed with. He immediately bumps heads with the prison's undisputed champ, Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes). Hutchens, however, is named the aggressor and sent to solitary confinement until his inevitable transfer. Fortunately, a powerful mob boss and boxing aficionado lurks in the prison and sets up a climactic fight between Monroe and the Iceman. As one would expect, the film leads to an extended training montage and a strong boxing finale. The film does feel like it backtracks towards the end, making the odds feel worthless, but the ending is satisfying enough.

Undisputed is a fairly standard boxing film in a prison setting. It does well in building tension between Monroe and the Iceman — from their first encounter to their final battle. The film is also always on its toes, frequently shifting between different scenes and leaving hardly any room for boredom or filler. So, you've got a well-balanced and well-paced film. For a boxing film, though, the film is lacking in the fighting department. There are only two real boxing matches in this 90 minute feature — the introduction and grand finale. The fights are well-choreographed, but there really isn't enough of them. The character development is also lopsided. We see a lot of Iceman and a little of Monroe, which also hinders the stakes — not that they're worth much due to the ending anyway. This doesn't necessarily make the film bad, though, as I was thoroughly entertained throughout. It simply fails to leave a notable impression.

The acting is good. Ving Rhames immerses himself into this burly and aggressive character. Wesley Snipes, unfortunately, hardly gets the time to shine. He's certainly serviceable, but he hardly stands out due to his limited screen time and ambiguous character. Otherwise, the film is shot well enough — there was one frame I really enjoyed, but it was fairly standard. The soundtrack is comprised of rap. I mean, the film practically starts with a Master P concert and a rap song plays for almost every transition. I love rap, but I wasn't really a big fan of the music in this film. Walter Hill writes and directs this prison-boxing drama. It could use some fine-tuning in both writing and direction, as well as some creativity to further differentiate itself, but it does capture the triumphant/sporty vibe in the end.

Overall, Undisputed is a good boxing-sport film. The story is interesting and engaging, the few fight scenes are great, and Ving Rhames nails his performance. The film, however, is lacking in the fighting and character departments. It is especially unfortunate to see Wesley Snipes and his significant character so underutilized. If you're looking for a short, well-paced, and engaging boxing film, this one should fill that appetite, but don't expect a brutal classic about redemption or an action-packed film.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, some partial nudity.

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