Undisputed (2002) / Action-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for strong language
Running Time: 94 min.

Cast: Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Peter Falk, Michael Rooker, Fisher Stevens, Jon Seda, Master P, (cameo), Silkk tha Shocker (cameo), C-Murder (cameo), Boz (cameo)
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: David Giler, Walter Hill
Review published April 1, 2002

Although Walter Hill (Supernova, Crossroads) hasn't really directed a successful film since 48 Hrs. over twenty years ago, I still had some hope for this latest misfire.  Part of the reason to hope is that Hill reunites with David Giler for the screenplay, and together they produced and partially wrote the first three Alien movies -- a successful collaboration by all accounts.  Added to this, the film stars two engaging actors, Wesley Snipes (Blade II, ZigZag) and Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible II, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), and although they haven't made many wise choices lately in terms of screenplays, they are fine actors when given the right roles and are natural choices when selecting actors who could play tough-guy boxers.

Rhames stars as George "Iceman" Chambers, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, or at least he was until getting locked up in Sweetwater prison in the Mojave desert after being found guilty of rape.  It seems the prison has its own boxing champ in the form of Munroe Hutchen (Snipes), and once Chambers gets wind that there is supposedly a fighter better than him, he becomes fixated in testing Hutchen out.  When things get ugly, a fellow convict named Ripstein (Falk, Corky Romano) sees an opportunity to earn cash by promoting the fight of undisputed champs in a prison bout, with Hutchen coming in at 40 to 1 odds. 

Undipsuted is a rather tepid affair during the hour-long build-up, and with better characterizations and more realism, it would have come a long way to making the boxing match at the end more exciting.  The last half hour, especially when it's Rhames vs. Snipes toe-to-toe, the film finds its footing, but I'm afraid it's too little and too late, as the film was TKO'd long before it had a chance for a comeback. 

Rhames does a fine job playing the bad-ass arrogant champ, but Snipes just isn't given much to work with, and although his name is first in the credits, he delivers very few lines and his character isn't built up the way it should have been.  The result is a fight that has no hero, and we root for Snipes because he is basically the underdog, and not because we identify with him as a human being.

Undisputed falls short of being a good film by quite a bit, but you may give it a better grade if you are a fan of the leads, or just boxing films in general.  However, there is little in the way of entertainment for anyone else, and despite a well-choreographed fight and a nice ending, its just isn't worth sitting through the first hour of boredom to get there.  Perhaps Undistinguished would have been a more appropriate title.  

-- Followed by Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing in 2006.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo