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Directed by Walter Hill.
Written by Walter Hill and David Giler.
Starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  8/28/02


Love Wesley.  Love Ving.  So, I naturally had to check out Walter Hill’s boxing flick “Undisputed”, which opened to such a small box office that it will probably be gone by next Friday.

That’s too bad, but as boxing and prison flicks go, this one is pretty solid.  Wesley Snipes stars as Monroe Hutchins, who has been in the joint for ten years for murder.  Hutchins is the undisputed champion of the California Inter-Prison League, a boxing network of prisoners that fights against civilians every six months to give those crazy inmates at fictional Sweetwater Prison something to feel good about.  At 68-0, Hutchins has cleaned up all of the lowlifes that he has faced.  Luckily, the heavyweight champion of the free world, George “Iceman” Chambers (Ving Rhames), gets convicted on rape charges and is sent to Sweetwater to serve a six-year sentence.  When Iceman finds out that Hutchins is the champ on the inside, he sets out to make sure that they fight to see who the real boss is.

Snipes, who headlines “Undisputed”, is actually not in as much of the film as Rhames is; due to some time in solitary confinement, we don’t see much of his character for the middle third of the film.  This is good, because Rhames’ Iceman is a collection of sports hyperbole, spouting off at the mouth whenever he can about his profession, his anger towards his fans, the media, the luxuries of an affluent lifestyle, being black and famous in modern America, and on and on.  Watching Rhames is always fun, though, so while his lines are clichéd as all get out, his delivery of them keeps you engaged when he is not in the ring.  Snipes is playing a toned-down version of his normal screen self—not the crazy persona of his Nino Brown from “New Jack City” (still his best work) or the insane criminal nature of his white-haired killer in “Demolition Man.”  Here, he is more in that “Blade” mode—silent but deadly.

I like the way that director Hill put the film together—by flashing quick bios of each person that plays a part in the film when they first appear, he skips silly sequences of “What are you in [prison] for?” conversations by just cutting to the chase and telling us who’s who.  The film moves fast—at a trim 90 minutes, you had better show up on time.  There are a decent number of prison fights thrown in for our viewing pleasure, the sounds of people getting punched is hilariously loud, and Iceman gets to tell off characters left and right to increase the number of times he gets to curse.  Speaking of which, Peter Falk (as an imprisoned Mafia kingpin) says “fuck” more times in this film than any character since Joe Pesci in “Casino.”

And, the obvious end sequence fight between Iceman and Hutchins is fantastic because it takes almost 20 minutes of screen time, and then the film basically just ends.  It’s a good fight, a well-choreographed fight, and it doesn’t feature too much flashy of the things that brought down some of the fight scenes in “Ali.”

“Undisputed” has its problems.  The film features wasted, stereotypical performances from:  Michael Rooker as the head prison guard, Wes Studi (Magwa, from “The Last of the Mohicans”), useless as Iceman’s lackey prison roommate, and Ed Lover (!!!) as the commentator at the prison brawls.  It’s got an undistinguishable rap soundtrack, made worse by the appearance of The Second Worst Rapper of All Time, Master P, and his entourage of Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder.  And, in a “you had to be there” scenario, the rape case against Iceman is made worse by a lack of details that led to people in my audience hurling obscenities at the on-screen plaintiff.  Not pretty.

But, as a boxing film (the reason you will probably see the film if you go at all), “Undisputed” is pretty good stuff.  And, it’s real nice end-of-summer candy.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09