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Click for full sized poster

Undisputed

Starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames; Peter Falk
Written by David Giler & Walter Hill
Directed by Walter Hill
website: www.miramax.com

IN SHORT: dead on its feet. [Rated R for Strong Language. 90 minutes]

Movies featuring a boxing scenario theoretically have it easy. At least one of the main contenders usually falls into the status of an underdog and that wee bit of characterization alone, if the story is interesting and performed well, is just about all that is necessary to keep us happily planted. So, here comes Undisputed which could have gone the Rocky in Prison route but instead chooses to populate itself with so much negative energy and characters that its sole assault is upon its audience.

It is possible to fill a movie with unsympathetic characters and/or unsympathetic situations and still entertain a paying audience. But not in this case

In this corner, an unrepentant rapist ('cuz he maintains all contact was consensual), the stripped of his title ex-World Heavyweight Champion George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), sentenced to 6 - 8 years. With good behavior the Champ could be out in two but this title holder doesn't ever behave good. In the other corner, is lifer-for-murder Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes). For ten years Hutchen has been fighting in "approved" boxing matches. In ten years he has never lost a bout. As Iceman will put it, after their first confrontational interaction, "Only one man can be Champion in Sweetwater". The proper response turns out to be "who cares?"

Orchestrated by Emanuel "Mendy" Ripstein (Peter Falk), mobster and fight fan in his final biological rounds, a fight is staged for the convicts and staff of Sweetwater, plus an elite word of mouth audience -- seven mobster bookmakers from Vegas, each with a battery of cell phones to report the action. No broadcast. No radio or tape recording of any kind is allowed. Authorities conveniently away on well paid vacations (the alternative being not so well paid, and permanent, vacations...) In other words, everyone is going to make a fortune from a fight which history will never record as having happened

Director Walter Hill has more than one opportunity to make Snipes a true underdog but he doesn't take any of 'em. With the focus full on an unrepentant mofo (Rhames) what we get is a slugfest akin to a real life Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots game, except that we don't care about either one of these losers. What is even worse is the choreography and cinematic execution of the "big fight". Stylishly encased in a steel cage that the prison uses for all its bouts, Hill keeps his camera outside of the cage most of the time for long shots which rely heavily on sound effects of fist hitting flesh -- we should point out that the rules of this particular fight aren't Marquis of Queensbury. They're something a bit more brutal. It still doesn't matter. We didn't care. We shouldn't have bothered.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Undisputed, he would have paid . . .

$2.00

There is more boxing -- punch for punch -- in this film than in almost every heavyweight title bout of the last ten years combined.

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