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View Date: Sept 13th, 2002

Rating: ($$$ out of $$$$$)


Wesley Snipes Monroe Hutchens
Ving Rhames George 'Iceman' Chambers
Peter Falk Mendy Ripstein
Michael Rooker A.J. Mercker
Jon Seda Jesus Campos
Wes Studi Mingo Pace
Fisher Stevens Ratbag Dolan
Dayton Callie Yank Lewis
Denis Arndt Warden Lipscom
Jim Lampley Himself
Ed Lover Marvin Bonds

Directed by:
Walter Hill 

Written by:
Walter Hill and David Giler

Related Viewings:
Snatch. (2000)
Black and White (1999)
Gladiator (1992)
Diggstown (1992)
Rocky (1976)

Official Sites:

Also see my reviews at:


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While the obvious similarities to a certain imprisoned, temperamental, well-known boxer who was accused of rape, are not blatantly stated, there is no denying that they are present and were an inspiration into the basic storyline of Undisputed.  But director Walter Hill takes these characterizations and molds them into a tightly compelling drama which touches on the aspects of the psychology behind boxing and shows that amidst the big money sequels and special effects laden faire that litters the summer movie schedule, an underdog can sneak in and shine loud and proud.

As if it was ripped from the headlines, the story of Undisputed is a familiar one.  George “Iceman” Chambers (Ving Rhames) is the heavyweight champion of the world, undefeated, feared and revered worldwide.  But as he states, with fame comes everyone gunning for you, figuratively and literally.  He is accused of rape and imprisoned in an isolated California prison known as Sweetwater.  This prison is for the hardest of the hardened criminals, so as not to “taint the rest of society”.  Sweetwater is also the home of Monroe Hutchen, an up and coming fighter who was incarcerated for beating a man to death in a jealous rage.  Inside, Hutchen has become the champion that he never got to be on the outside.  After 10 years, he is also undefeated, unchallenged and respected.  The path of the story is inevitable, but the points that it makes and the way that it gets there is what makes Undisputed so good.

There is a parallel between boxing movies and prison movies.  Each are usually about men overcoming odds or obstacles using strength; be it physical or mental.  Undisputed touches on both, but never dwells on either, thereby finding the balance to tell a story, make a social commentary, and still give us a conclusion to root and cheer for, even if we know its coming.

Ving Rhames is such a menacing cinematic presence, it’s a wonder he doesn’t get typecast more than he does.  As Chambers, he hearkens back to his roles where his ego and physical presence fueled a genuine intimidation and awe factor that made it next to impossible to take your eyes off of. But he is much deeper and much more talented than just his looks.  As he showed in both Pulp Fiction and Only in America, Rhames can combine the physical and mental aspects (witness his rebuttal to calling boxing a sport, and about how everyone wants a piece of him) into performances that are truly unforgettable.  Snipes is almost the antithesis of Rhames in this film, never raising his voice or getting worked up, but still commanding and demanding of attention.  Once again Wesley has discovered his acting ability and shows that intimidation can come from being calmly confident as well.  These two performances show the contrasting and conflicting personalities that exist not only in boxing, but also in everyday survival of the fittest.  The cameos and supporting roles add flavor but never become distracting to the story.  From a wisecracking ring announcer (rapper Ed Lover) to yet another Peter Falk turn as an aging mobster with a boxing obsession and selective remembrance, to Jon Seda, Wes Studi and Fisher Stevens (as the sidekicks of the three major players) to Michael Rooker as a gung-ho warden, Hill has added the perfect touches to a simple story and made Undisputed a memorable experience that will have you cheering in appreciation and admiration

Ultimately, Undisputed is one of the best movies of this summer that you may never have heard of, but one that everyone should experience.  There have been numerous boxing movies made, and it never ceases to amaze me as to the different aspects and ways that directors make something simple and predictable seem fresh and entertaining.  Hill uses his fancy film making skills, including black and white photography, prison maps, documentary style character introductions and some well placed cameos, to craft a film that speaks to society in regards to how we view these modern day gladiators.  The film never patronizes or glorifies their actions, but is well aware of the power that these men can have.  Instead, Hill keeps it simple, using the side stories to add flavor rather than distract, and fueled by this and strong performances from Snipes, who has discovered he can act and be intimidating again, and Rhames, who revels in his arrogant tough-guy mode ala Marcellus Wallace, gives Undisputed the title of biggest surprise of the summer, if not one of the best films. 

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