Miramax // 2002 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 26th, 2002
Two enemies...the mob...the ultimate showdown.
What better way is there for a red-blooded American male to spend his Friday night than by watching two other red-blooded American males (maybe one's Russian...you never know) pummeling each other inside a large arena with thousands of fans looking on? I can't think of a one. Obviously inspired by the events of onetime heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson, director Walter Hill's Undisputed comes to DVD care of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction, Mission: Impossible) has everything going for him: he's wealthy, renowned around the globe, and is the boxing heavyweight champion of the world. When a rape charge is brought against him, Iceman is sent up the creek on a nearly decade long prison sentence. While in the slammer, he meets a wide assortment of characters, including Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk, The Princess Bride), a boxing fan and former mob boss who still has sway in both the inside and outside world. His plan: set up a fight between Iceman, the world's champ, and inmate Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57, Blade II), the prison's undefeated champion. As the fight night draws near, both men train and prepare for what will end up being the biggest battle of their lives to prove who is really and truly the Undisputed champ.
Not long ago, I reviewed a Michael Caine movie titled Shiner, also about the boxing world and all its evils. Aside of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, it's really the only boxing movie I can recall seeing. I'm glad that I had the chance to watch Walter Hill's Undisputed, which came right on the heels of watching Hill's lackluster 1984 rock and roll fable Streets Of Fire (yes, sometimes I do watch movies just for fun). I went into Undisputed with only mediocre hopes and was pleasantly surprised.
Like any man with balls of steel and an iron sword to match, I get giddy watching two guys beat the living hamburger out of each other. I think that we were all instilled with that primal urge to find someone we don't like then use them as a human punching bag. If all of that made you drool uncontrollably, then you're gonna eat up Undisputed. Though the story is short on complexity -- it's just one big set-up for the eventual showdown between Rhames and Snipes -- this is still a better-than-average popcorn flick. The good news is it's filled with mounds of guys in prison slapping the snot out of one another. The bad news is that it also sports the requisite scene of guys in the shower showing off their backsides. Why is it Hollywood feels we need to see wet, naked hulks conversing in the bathroom?
But, I digress. Walter Hill has produced a fine little boxing movie that features some well executed -- if one dimensional -- performances by Snipes and Rhames as the sparring leads. Snipes is his usual cool self as Monroe, while Rhames chews up the scenery, then spits it back out as the egotistic, loud-mouth Iceman. Neither of these actors are given much with the screenplay, though it was a nice touch to have neither man be the "good guy" (Rhames is in for rape and Snipes for murder...do you see a discernable good guy anywhere?). The supporting cast includes the always entertaining Peter Falk as Ripstein (who has a funny monologue that uses the F-word as if it's a vowel) and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Cliffhanger) as the guard who sets up the boxing matches between the prisoners. And finally we get the answer to the lingering question "what every happened to Fisher 'Mr. Michelle Pfeiffer/Short Circuit' Stevens?" (answer: he's still a geek).
My only big complaint about the film is that the DVD case shows Rhames and Snipes superimposed over a helicopter and a giant explosion. This makes Undisputed look like a full blown action flick, which isn't the case. There are no gunfights or bombs in this film, only a boatload of bruised knuckles. Even so, that should be good enough for any red-blooded...well, you see where I'm going.
Undisputed is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Miramax has done a very good job at making sure this transfer is crystal clear with sharp colors and solid black levels throughout. Aside from a small amount of haloing in one scene, this ended up being a very nice picture void of any edge enhancement or bleeding. Detail appears to be thorough without any imperfections marring the image.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Even better than the video portions of this disc is the sound mix -- this 5.1 track is rollicking and very bombastic. Almost the entire way through the front and rear speakers are filled with loud punches, cheering crowds, or clinking prison gates. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Because Undisputed lacked any beefy box office results, it's no surprise to find it light on extra features. The only thing Miramax has included on this disc are two "Conversations," one with Wesley Snipes and one with Ving Rhames. Each one features the actor pontificating about their roles and how they got them (I liked Snipes discussion of the typical "Hollywood lunch" with Walter Hill). Both of these are fairly fluffy, though if you're a fan of the film, savor 'em -- I have the feeling that this is as close to a "special edition" as Undisputed as we're going to get.
Also included on the disc are the requisite "sneak peek" theatrical trailers for various Buena Vista titles.
Undisputed is an entertaining boxing/action movie. While it didn't change my world or challenge me intellectually or emotionally, I had a fun time all the same. Miramax's work on the disc is decent if a little light.
Undisputed is free to be to the heavyweight boxing champ of...err, the month.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* A Conversation with Wesley Snipes
* A Conversation with Ving Rhames
* Official Site