Iceman Fights The Cooler
"Undisputed" has a few flaws but the major one; the one which causes the most issues is that it lacks depth. Now that may sound stupid seeing that the story to "Undisputed" revolves around boxing matches in prison and so at its heart is a movie about aggression and action. But the lack of depth means that we have no one to get behind or at least someone we can sympathise with to want them to win. Because of this "Undisputed" ends up a surprisingly flat movie, punctuated by various episodes of action until the inevitable big fight arrives but little else to keep hold of your attention.
Found guilty of rape, Heavyweight boxing champion George "Ice Man" Chambers (Ving Rhames - Mission: Impossible II) finds himself in Sweetwater prison where he quickly learns that the prison has their own champion, the undefeated Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes - Murder at 1600). For Iceman there isn't room for two Champions and makes it known, starting a fight with Monroe in the canteen. But for boxing aficionado and imprisoned gangster Emmanuel 'Mendy' Ripstein (Peter Falk) having an official and an unofficial champion in the same prison is a dream come true as he arranges for them to face off in one of the prisons illegal boxing matches organised by head guard A.J. Mercker (Michael Rooker) to see who really is the undisputed champ.
As storylines go "Undisputed" has probably one of the simplest I have ever witnessed as we are taken into the walls of Sweetwater prison where the undefeated prison boxing champion finds himself facing up to the real Heavyweight champion who is has been sent to jail for rape. There are some sub stories, there is an old gangster who is a boxing aficionado who would like nothing more to see a pure fight between these two men and of course those who would like to make a name for themselves by taking on the real champ. But what it all comes down to is who will win when Monroe Hutchen and George 'Iceman' Chambers face off in the ring, will it be the arrogant Heavyweight champ or the undefeated prison champ.
The storyline in itself isn't that much of a problem, director Walter Hill knows that this is a low level action movie and treats it as such. He makes the most of the fight scenes, using various techniques from going black & white to getting up close to make these fight scenes entertaining. And he allows for a tiny bit of humour to encroach, not forced comedy moments but humour from cliche characters and cocky behaviour.
But the trouble is that there is no one to get behind, to really root for when it comes down to that final fight. In one corner you have the prison champ Munroe but all we know about him is he pummelled a man and that he likes building things out of tooth picks. Then in the other corner you have Iceman who is arrogant and cocky and inside for rape but for a lot of the movie there is doubt over whether he did rape the person. But because there is little real depth to these characters that you don't root for either which is just wrong.
What is very obvious is that the character of George 'Iceman' Chambers has been inspired by Mike Tyson, not only in look and attitude but also in storyline with him being sent to prison for rape. As such it is Ving Rhames who dominates "Undisputed" because Iceman is such an arrogant full on character but also physically Rhames dominates looking every ounce a boxer with his muscular frame. That doesn't mean that Wesley Snipes puts un a bad performance as Monroe Hutchen, it's a solid performance of a character who is sort of Zen like in the way he survives in prison, living in his mind rather than in his cell. Although it has to be said that both Rhames and Snipes end up playing second fiddle to Peter Falk who doesn't get a huge amount of scenes but steals every single one especially when it comes to his expletive riddle rant when the warden cancels the big fight, if you thought Pacino swore a lot in "Scarface" Falk eclipses him in a 60 second outburst.
What this all boils down to is that "Undisputed" is what it is, a very average, very ordinary movie which delivers moments of action but nothing else. Director Walter Hill knows what it is and doesn't try to make it more which is a good thing but then also gives us the problem of no one to really get behind which is what you need in a movie which is about two boxers in prison. "Undisputed" is worth a watch just for the fight scenes and Peter Falk's expletive riddled rant which takes you by surprise even when you know its coming.
Tags: Boxing Movies