Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing (2006) / Action-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language, and drug use
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Eli Danker, Ben Cross
Director: Isaac Florentine
Screenplay: James Townsend, David White
Review published July 31, 2006
Looming right near the top of the list of sequels that never needed to be made comes Undisputed 2, follow-up to the 2002 film, Undisputed, a film that made no money, received little critical acclaim, and basically would have all but been completely forgotten if they hadn't bothered making another entry. At least, now we have second film to fondly forget.
Fans of the first film, few though they may be, need not even bother applying. The only correlation to the film is that both films feature the character of "Iceman" Chambers, the heavyweight champion boxer that ends up going to prison and fighting a mega-talented nobody that has been tearing up the prison circuit (if there even is one). However, the character is very underwritten, only requiring that the actor that plays the part be big, Black, and pissed -- three things that Ving Rhames exemplified in the first film. Rhames apparently took a pass on repeating the role here, as he has been replaced by Michael Jai White (Silver Hawk, Exit Wounds), seven years younger and considerably more muscular.
The plot is even more perplexing, and doesn't even pass the snicker test. Here, Chambers is framed for drug possession while in Russia (Bulgaria stands in) doing commercials, so he is sent to one of the worst prisons in the country to do hard time. It turns out the whole reason for the frame-up is so that the prison champion kickboxer, Uri Boyka (Adkins), can prove his mettle against the best by challenging him in the ring. It's a big money power play by a local Russian mafia kingpin to make money off of the match, and with the warden and guards in on it, everyone spends their free time coercing Chambers into agreeing to the match, breaking his body, if not his spirit. Winning the match will be Chambers' only ticket out. Luckily, everyone in Russia appears to speak English.
Undisputed 2 has only one thing going for it, and that is the brutal and relentless kickboxing action. Fans of bare-knuckle fighting may find this modestly appealing, as it does feature some nifty martial arts-type sparring, with an especially impressive athletic performance by British martial arts expert and gymnast, Scott Adkins . White, also trained in martial arts, is certainly quite imposing in his own right, and does a workable job in recreating Rhames' take-no-crap performance, even if he lacks the formidable screen presence to truly own it.
Perhaps the most perplexing thing about Undisputed 2 is that it even bothers to call itself a sequel, rather than standalone feature. Granted, both films feature bouts fought in prison, but with hardly anyone seeing the first film, and few remembering it, they could have released this under a different title with a different character name and few, if any, would have noticed. Since there aren't many fans of Undisputed, and those that are don't really want a crappier sequel, they have handcuffed this film's potential for success substantially by adding a "2" to the title.
Undisputed 2 is a dumb movie, both in concept and in execution. If you've seen the first film and like it enough to see more, you should be warned that this film is barely in the same universe, and even the sport has changed somewhat. This one's strictly for the action and ultimate fighting junkies, who won't care that it makes little sense, or whether it stays true to the characters, as long as there is plenty of blood and violence on display. If Undisputed deserved to be titled Undistinguished, then Undisputed 2 should be called Undeserving of even claiming that. Fans of the Snipes/Rhames brawler don't deserve this one either.
©2006 Vince Leo