Sunday, July 23, 2017

Up to Scratch

Do I need to justify watching Undisputed (2002) - the prison boxing movie directed by Walter Hill?

It stars Wesley Snipes, as the undefeated boxing champion of the California prison system. Then World Heavyweight Champion Ving "Iceman" Rhames is convicted of sexual assault and sent to the same prison. At some point they will have to fight. That turns out to be Peter Falk's job. He's a crusty mobster (he's introduced with that title on screen) who has been working with Snipes. He arranges a fight under "London Prize Ring" rules - bare-knuckles, with no rounds, just a 60-second rest period when anyone is knocked down (unless they stay down, then they lose).

Of course, the fight is the best part of the movie. Snipes and Rhames are in great shape and seem to know how to box - and Hill knows how to film it. For the rest, Snipes and Rhames are interesting characters, but by being boring: stoical, controlled and closed off. Rhames shows no remorse for his crime and claims he was set up. The movie doesn't try to convince you one way or another. Snipes gets sent to solitary and does his time there building toothpick models. They are strong men with nothing to prove, except that they will step up to the line when the bell rings and do his best.

Snipes and Rhames get some good support from, among others, Wes Studi (our favorite Native American actor) and Fisher Stevens, as Snipes' toady, Ratbag. Falk could have walked away with the movie, but doesn't get the screen time, so that's ok. All in all, a fun tough-guy action movie.

This probably wouldn't be enough to get us to watch, but it's the first in a series - Undisputed 2 stars Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White. The director is Israel Florentine and co-stars Scott Adkins, a pair who are famous for direct-to-video actioners. So we're just watching this to get to the sequels.

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