Written by: David Giler & Walter Hill
Directed by: Walter Hill
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Peter Falk, Michael Rooker, Jon Seda
- A Conversation with Ving Rhames
- A Conversation with Wesley Snipes
Released by: Miramax
My Advice: Wait for basic cable.
Undisputed takes two film genres, the prison movie and the boxing movie, and tries to merge them together. In the California Inter-prison Boxing League, lifer Monroe Hutchens (Snipes), a former professional boxer, is its star with no losses on his record. This is about to be challenged by ‘The Iceman’ Chambers (Rhames), the Heavyweight Champion of the World (at least he was before his rape conviction). These two pugilists are total opposites: where Hutchens is controlled and philosophical about the sport, Chambers is more concerned with raw power and pay-per-view royalties. This interests Mendy Ripstein (Falk), a fellow inmate, an elder statesman of the Mafia, and a scholar of the Sweet Science. He wants a bout between these two and with pride and money on the line, it will be a fight to remember.
Don’t worry about thinking for this movie; everything is handed to you on a silver platter. When a character is introduced, their name, felonies, and length of sentence are displayed on screen for you. The characters are cliches–from the corrupt prison guard to the prison gangs of skinheads and black Muslims. The story is strictly paint-by-numbers. Still, it’s not a total waste. The climactic bout between the two is shot very well, conveying the energy and movement of the fighting while still allowing the audience to follow the action. It is a credit to Ving Rhames’ and Wesley Snipes’ presence as actors that make these characters even halfway watchable. And Rhames manages to make an obvious Mike Tyson clone into something approaching an actual person. But Peter Falk plays his role more like a grumpy old man than someone who has Mafia dons at his beck and call. When he threatens the warden with death if he doesn’t allow the fight to take place, it feels more like he complaining that the heat was set to low.
The DVD doesn’t have much going for it. First, Buena Vista puts trailers at the front of the disc before you get to the main menu. Granted, you can hit your menu button and skip, but I was hoping we had left that kind of thing behind in VHS-Land. The only extras were ‘conversations’ with Ving Rhames and Wesley Snipes. These are just brief snipets from the publicity tour where the stars talk to reporters to promote the movie. The clips aren’t very illuminating about the movie or their thoughts on it, so they’re not a really good bonus. Perhaps if you had an actual commentary track with the actors or director Hill, perhaps it would up the disc’s standing with yours truly. But as is, frankly, I’d wait to see Undisputed on the USA Network.