Judge David Johnson just watched one of the best action movies of the year. No joke.
One deadly tournament. A last fight for freedom.
I've never seen the first two Undisputed films, but if they're even a fraction as bad-ass as this one, I'm bumping them to the top of my queue.
Facts of the Case
Boyka (Scott Adkins, Ninja) is a Russian prisoner who excels at two things: scowling and kicking ass. Unfortunately he has a ruined knee, which has kept him out of fighting. While locked up, he finds ways to rehab and just when he's ready to compete, he gets the opportunity to enter a brutal tournament that pits convicts from across the world against each other. The prize…freedom.
As he moves up the leaderboard, Boyka befriends an American brawler named Turbo (Mykel Jenkins) and the two form a tenuous friendship. But someone is going to have to climb over the turnbuckles and face a lethal Croatian who's got all the odds in his favor, and appears more than willing to choke someone out with their own small intestine.
At first glance, Undisputed 3 looks like your typical direct-to-home-video exercise in mediocrity. Don't be fooled. This is a great time and anyone nursing even the smallest inclination for brutal, bad-ass action needs to carve out some time ASAP for this offering. Seriously, it's awesome.
Not that it isn't formulaic or familiar. By now, the Fighting Tournament scenario has been well-established as the go-to plot device for martial arts movies. Yes, there are some seedy fight organizers. Yes, there's a seemingly unbeatable champion. Yes, the hero takes a serous beatdown before having a mid-match epiphany and summoning the champion spirit to will himself to victory. Nothing will surprise you here.
But, Undisputed 3 executes the formula perfectly and, most importantly, does it with a surprising amount of heart and a shocking amount of genuinely fantastic fisticuffs. The sentimental core comes from the bond forged between Boyka and Turbo. Again, you know what's coming, but the guys have juice and they're complete hard-asses, so it's a treat to see them work together to punch dudes in the mouth. Adkins—who was stiff in Ninja but turns in a brutal, subdued performance as the ill-tempered headliner—and Jenkins have plenty of chemistry, though mainly they're sweaty and have muscles in places I didn't think was physiologically possible.
Which is important, because the fight scenes look like they require participants who are as fit as lions or bulldozers. Normally these in-the-ring focused action sequences leave me cold, but the minds behind the fight choreography here hit a series of bloody, bruising homeruns. The bouts are varied and interesting and shot well, and the fight styles are legion: high-flying kung-fu, boxing, Muay-Thai, Brazilian Capoeira and Adkins' all-encompassing routine (the guy has some moves). Finally, a shout-out to Marko Zoror (Kiltro), dynamite and physically imposing as the bad guy.
As solid as the movie is, the Blu-ray may be the shallowest high-def release I've ever reviewed. The technical aspects perform well—a vibrant, well-detailed 1.78:1 widescreen, supplemented by a deep and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix—but that's it. No extras. There's not even a scene index on the main menu.
For hand-to-hand thrills, there can be no dispute. Undisputed 3 is a knock-out.
Not Guilty. Keep the series coming, boys!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
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