a critiQal film review Undisputed (2002)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: The Stillwater Prison boxing champ, 10 years running, is Monroe Hutchins (Snipes), an ex-boxer sentenced to life in prison for murder. But a new challenger is coming: George "Iceman" Chambers (Rhames), ex-Heavyweight Champion of the World, sentenced to prison for rape.

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  • ...nothing but a Rocky wannabe

Since the success of the original Rocky (1976), boxing has been tried again and again on the big screen. A highlight of recent years was Will Smith’s stunning portrayal of Muhammed Ali in Ali (2001). Now, here comes the latest challenger: Undisputed. Will it be the champ, or just another chump?

The actors gave decent performances. Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames both portrayed their characters convincingly enough, as did the supporting cast. Wesley Snipes’ portrayal was a bit different for him. This time around, he plays a boxer who’s comfortable being in prison. Sure, he still regrets having to go there, but he has managed to survive and even thrive a little inside.

Ving Rhames, the cocky Heavyweight Champ, comes off like a bull in a china shop. Considering the setting is a maximum security prison, that shows the kind of sheer power he seems to exude. Combined, they make a powerful duo in the ring.

The plot was a bit off. Taking seemingly straight from the life of Mike Tyson (Ving Rhames’ character is accused of rape, which he denies, and he is sentenced to prison), Undisputed seems almost too close to the truth. Then, they throw in the boxing matches. I’m sorry, but having a crowd like that in a maximum security prison? I suppose it’s possible that actually happens, but it’s unlikely. Seems like it’s a sure invitation to disaster.

The other inmates, with a few exceptions, are all pretty jovial people, totally under the thumb of the prison. That, all by itself, was a bit surprising, after seeing how maximum security is portrayed in films like Natural Born Killers (1994), etc.

The special effects mostly consisted of the boxing. The boxing was fun to watch, so I assume they did a pretty good job. It’s kind of odd that during the fights, no one gets bloody, no one gets any eye swelling or bruises, no matter how much they get hit. Other then that, the fights seemed to be portrayed well, and definitely added thrill to Undisputed, at least for a little while.

I’m not sure what it is, but something’s missing from Undisputed. I’m not sure if it’s lack of back story, or the uneven pace of the film, or just the basic camera shooting. Whatever it may be, it pulls this film down. Sure, the fights are good, but you haven’t really gotten to know the characters, and it doesn’t really involve you as much as it could have. It’s unfortunate.

With maybe a bit more back story, including a couple more fights possibly, and some better camera work, this could have been a contender. Undisputed…sorry, but Rocky (1976) is still the champ…you guys can’t even step into the same ring. Better luck next time.

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