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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 28.13%
Average: 15.63%
Pretty Bad50%
Total Crap: 6.25%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"At The End Of The Day, It's Still Two Guys Just Hitting Each Other"
4 stars

Having just come back from Vegas, practically the boxing capital of the world, you get a sense of how popular the “sport” is, especially to those with money clips full of $100 bills. Boxing commentators appraise the art of the event and the skills involved to dodge and punch and the boxers themselves talk trash trying to get into the minds of their opponents. But it’s still just a show; all put together for the audience who come to watch, talking pretentious metaphors about glory and honor of the ring gladiators. Walter Hill’s new film cuts right through the B.S. giving a big middle-fingered “shut up” to those who talk up what is nothing more than two guys beating the hell outta one another.

In Sweetwater prison in Arizona, the reigning champ of the cons is Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes). At 68-0 (nearly all of them knockouts), the only thing holding him back is the lengthy sentence he’s serving for murder. Enter James “Iceman” Chambers (Ving Rhames), the current Heavyweight Champ who has just been convicted of rape (Gee, sound like anyone famous?) and is starting to face the harsh reality of having his title stripped away from him and the greatest enemy of an athlete put on neutral – age.

Emmanuel “Mendy” Ripstein (Peter Falk) also resides in Sweetwater. He’s an old school mobster and a boxing scholar who sees opportunity knocking to stage the ultimate matchup this side of Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand. It helps when you have the street rules of Chambers coercing him to pick a fight in the chowline with Monroe just to remind his fellow inmates he’s not to be messed with.

A pretty formulaic setup to be sure, but Hill and co-screenwriter David Giler throw some nice wrinkles into the mix to keep it from getting bogged down in sports films cliches. Instead of simplifying the competition into a good vs. evil showdown, the audience is left to judge these two criminals for ourselves. Monroe is a quiet, moody guy whom we get a brief flashback for the reasoning of his stay. Chambers looks and, at times, acts like your prototypical villain. Throw a rape charge on top of it and your average screenplay would turn into a rallying cry to see this guy take a beating. But the circumstances behind his charges are left in the grey area. We hear his side of the story and the victim’s through interview footage, but its still just a he said/she said scenario where we can choose to believe who the real victim was.

The inside politics of the boxing association also parallel nicely with Mendy’s attempts to get a go for the boxing match. Value promises are made to both boxers, the word gets out to the bookmakers and the wheels are greased within to make the warden understand how its in his best interest to allow the fight to be staged. Watching scenes like this make it easier to understand how a fight like the recent Tyson/Lewis matchup can find a home after months of controversy.

Hill once again manages to pack the seams of his film with a great list of talented familiar faces. Rhames gets second billing here but is truly the star of the show, evenly playing the role of overgrown punk and a man trying to salvage what’s left of the only career he feels entitled to. Snipes is forced to spend most of the film in solitary confinement playing with toothpicks, but conveys the quiet warrior nicely through very sparse dialogue. Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit), Wes Studi (Geronimo: An American Legend), and Jon Seda (TV’s Homicide) all lend ample support as the guardians of the various prisoners and boxers. Peter Falk though steals all of his scenes culminating in a hilarious over-the-top monologue where he attempts to out-“F” Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Undisputed is a quick moving tale that represents a return to form for Walter Hill, who has strained and repeated himself through a number of sluggish projects in the 90s (Another 48 Hrs., Geronimo, Last Man Standing, Wild Bill). His signature usage of character introductions, flashbacks and snappy editing was around long before the days of guys like Michael Bay and (insert bad music video director’s names here). Fight fans will appreciate the skill of the climactic fight sequence (Snipes is particularly agile and both actors have the moves down cold), but may also finally get the sense that in such a battle – a winner may be crowned but it ultimately means more to the moneymakers than to anyone else. (NOTE: "Undisputed" may have the most blatant case of false advertising ever used to draw an audience. The film's ads say that Snipes is in jail for "a murder he did not commit" (when, in fact, we know he killed his wife's lover in the heat of passion) and Rhames is called a "ruthless killer" (when he's in jail on a rape charge and we know he hasn't killed anyone.)

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originally posted: 08/23/02 08:48:07
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User Comments

11/24/09 Albert Valentin Old school boxing in prison. Reminded me of Penitentiary. Good film. 3 stars
2/06/07 AJ Muller Snipes and Rhames are awesome. Walter Hill remains the American King of Kickass. 4 stars
4/23/06 Aldo not Bad 3 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G ving rhames just isnt as scary after being fuked in the ass in pulp fiction 3 stars
11/27/03 John solid -if cast (Snipes and Rhames) had been reversed it would have been brilliant 4 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Ending has integrity; Snipes is very quiet; a few clihes and annoyances; Good rent flick 4 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Well-crafted cliche-fest with no surprises. 2 stars
12/25/02 Stevo Not impressed by the characters or fights; bored from beginning to end. 2 stars
9/10/02 Chancey Thunderpants Very disappointing with an "eh..." kind of ending. Ruined the whole fucking movie. 2 stars
9/08/02 Cliché Master A true 4-star yawner if there ever was one. 1 stars
9/08/02 malcolm 'Rocky' + 'Penetintiary' + Mike Tyson; thrilling at times but totally unsurprising 3 stars
9/07/02 Buddha Mediocre at best. I mean, throw in a plot twist somewhere.. please! 3 stars
8/30/02 Melina This movie was so awful and predictable, and the acting was horrible. 1 stars
8/29/02 ajay why did ever scene do that white-flash-to-fade shit? I didn't care who won the fight either 2 stars
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  23-Aug-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Walter Hill

Written by
  Walter Hill
  David Giler

  Ving Rhames
  Wesley Snipes
  Peter Falk
  Michael Rooker
  Fisher Stevens
  Wes Studi

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