Undisputed  

Genre: Boxing and prison

Opens: Now playing

The Pitch: In this corner, heavyweight champ Ving Rhames, convicted of rape a la Mike Tyson. Over here, undefeated jailhouse boxer Wesley Snipes. After an hour of brawling, training, negotiating and macho posturing, they face off in Sweetwater Prison's "combat cage."

Body count: In flashback, we catch a glimpse of Snipes giving a lethal beat-down before going to the big house. Otherwise, the violence is tamer than HBO's "Oz," with no fatalities or even bloody noses.

Flesh factor: The requisite shower-scene confrontations are likewise brief and restrained but definitely establish that Ving got back.

Money shots: Snipes drops a huge skinhead in the film's opening fight. Rhames drops a half-dozen menacing black Muslims in the cellblock. The long-awaited but exciting final bout is somewhat diminished by having the camera on the wrong side of the cage too often.

Best lines: Ed Lover's motor-mouthed fight announcer is one of the film's main attractions: "This fight is about respeck! R-E-S-P-E-C-K!"

Hit single: The Big Tymers rap the title tune "Undisputed," and before the boxing matches, Master P leads a group of hip-hop inmates, although their lips never sync up with the rhymes we hear.

Fashion statements: None, unless you have a thing for denim prison scrubs.

Old cliches: Flashbacks are in black-and-white. Punches sound like wood being chopped. The prisoners ominously tap their cups in the cafeteria, prompting guard Michael Rooker to comment, "These dumb shits have been watching too many old prison movies!"

New cliches: Snipes doesn't just get locked in solitary confinement -- the door gets welded shut. Later, Snipes wins the support of everyone: the skinhead murderers, the Native American murderers, the Mexican mafia murderers, etc.

Misleading ad campaign? A bit: TV spots suggest Snipes was wrongfully convicted, but in the film he cops to manslaughter. That and Snipes' utter stoicism makes you want to root for the more three-dimensional Rhames, despite his being the "bad guy."

Behind the camera: As ever, director Walter Hill (The Warriors, The Long Riders, 48 Hrs., Last Man Standing) all but drenches his films in testosterone.

The Bottom Line: With Rhames' charisma, a lively pace but not quite as much punch as you'd expect, Undisputed floats like a butterfly and stings sort of like a butterfly, too.

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Recent Comments

  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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