When it comes to dissing fight flicks, Judge Gordon Sullivan is unrivaled.
Our review of Unrivaled (Blu-Ray), published March 16th, 2010, is also available.
The Fight of His Life
Hector Echavarria returns to play the reluctant fighter in another MMA-oriented film sponsored by Tapout. Unsurprisingly it does nothing to advance the genre, but those itching to see their favorite MMA fighters acting inside the ring will be pleased to see their talents on display here.
Ringo Duran (Hector Echavarria, Death Warrior) is an almost-over-the-hill fighter who, despite his considerable skills in the cage, hasn't gone pro yet. He won't throw fights, and his honesty has put him in hock to a bookie for twenty k. To help him out, some friend enter his name into a contest aimed at finding the best undiscovered fighter. For Ringo it's a chance to prove to himself that he's a good fighter and an opportunity to fix his debt—but only if his honest approach to the ring doesn't get in the way.
Unrivaled kind of rocks a Redbelt-meets-Bloodsport kind of vibe, where a humble martial artist enters a tournament to save himself and his friends. Ringo is just so darn wholesome and honest that he won't throw fits, and that leads him to money troubles, including working two jobs to support his sister. Of course when the big tournament comes around, he won't throw that, either, which makes his life difficult and pushes his fighting abilities to the max. Chances are if you're reading this that you've seen this story, and you've seen it done better.
That's okay. Most fans know there's better martial arts movies out there, and the real question is what goods Unrivaled delivers. Well, I can certainly say that it goes two better than the last Tapout release I reviewed, Death Warrior, in that it has actual fight scenes and character development.
Death Warrior simply didn't deliver the goods: the fight scenes were shot and choreographed to avoid showing any actual violence, which was a total disappointment. Unrivaled corrects that mistake by actually filming the carnage in the ring. The fight scenes are decently choreographed, and actual blows appear to land. They aren't the most outrageous or interesting scenes in the world, but they actually provide some contact for fans of MMA.
Unrivaled also tries to give Ringo an actual story. He's a humble, honest fighter who wants to live the dream of being a champ but can't deal with the grubby realities of professional sports. He's got a sister to take care of an a young protégé to bring along. These elements, plus the tournament, push the running time out to 108 minutes, which is a bit hefty for a fight flick. However, the added character development—however trite—actually gives the fights more impact.
Despite myself, Hector Echavarria is growing on me as an actor. He doesn't have much range that I can see (since so far he's played a reluctant fighter and a reluctant fighter in the films I've seen), but he just seems like such a nice guy that I can't hate him for his sometimes wooden chops. He genuinely comes off as a decent guy in this film, and it helps his character tremendously. The rest of the cast do a decent, if stereotypical, job with their roles. Overall, the acting was much better than I expected.
The folks behind Unrivaled know what fans want. This DVD starts strong with good audiovisual presentation. The transfer is good, with strong colors and no obvious compression problems despite the numerous darker scenes in bars and cages. The audio does a fine job with the metal score and dialogue, with an especially impressive low end. Extras start with a commentary featuring the director and producer that covers the film's production. MMA fans get interviews with Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, and Nate Marquardt. Those who are interested in how the film got made can watch the three featurettes. The first focuses on directing chase scenes, the second on the fights, and the final one behind the scenes. The disc rounds out with promos and a trailer gallery.
It won't do me much good to rage here about the film's inadequacies, but suffice it to say that there's nothing groundbreaking about Unrivaled. It's totally aimed at those with a penchant for MMA films. For them, this is a solid DVD with a strong audiovisual presentation and some decent extras.
It's certainly rivaled by better fight films, but for fans of MMA productions, Unrivaled is not guilty.
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