Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Film Round-Up #26

I suspect many others shared my appreciation of fighting films while growing up in the 80's, with classics like Bloodsport and Best of the Best to watch repeatedly, but I guess I kind of grew out of them. Not so long ago though, I happened upon a YouTube clip of some guy performing all sorts of crazy flippy spinny jumps and kicks on various hapless opponents. I soon identified him and the film in question and had to watch it. It turned out it was part of a series though, so I figured I might as well watch all of them and report back here with my largely inconsequential verdict!

Undisputed (2002)

The story in this original film in the series is centred around George 'Iceman' Chambers (Ving Rhames), the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion who is sent down for rape and ends up in supermax. Of course, it turns out the prison holds its own boxing matches and has its own 'undisputed' champion in Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes). Astonishingly, the betting syndicate that oversees the fights there are keen to see the two champs go head-to-head. The pompous and cocky Chambers is also eager to assert his dominance, and after a few snags (like Monroe ending up in the SHU) the fight is confirmed, with arrangements handled by ageing mob boss Ripstein (Peter Falk). There isn't really much here that's going to surprise you though. The premise is pretty good but there is basically only two proper fights in the film, and while both Rhames and Snipes look reasonably proficient in them (to my inexperienced eyes at least), that means you'll spend most of your time with the generic characters and bland script. I guess it's not too bad for what it is but don't go expecting a knockout (chortle!)... 5/10

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006)

Despite having limited success, the first film did get a sequel, albeit a straight-to-video sequel with none of the original cast. Chambers returns though, this time played by Michael Jai White, and he soon gets banged up again while on a trip to Russia when he's framed for possession of coke. Unsurprisingly, the conditions in The Motherland are much harsher, but the prison also holds its own fights. This time they are MMA contests rather than strictly boxing, and the champion is Yuri Boyka (Scott Adkins), an amazingly-skilled and athletic fighter who beats the living crap out of all-comers with apparently little effort. Next in the cross hairs is Chambers who is initially reluctant owing to his limited MMA skills. In a shockingly-unpredictable turn of events, the smackdown does eventually materialise though, when Chambers makes a friend in Crot (Eli Danker), a formal soldier who trains him. The story and most other aspects of the film are merely functional of course - it's the action that you came to see, and it's pretty damn good. Both main actors look convincing, especially Adkins who instantly puts many of Boyka's moves on any highlights reel. An excellent film for fight fans and much better than the first film... 8/10

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

A few years later we got another sequel with Boyka returning, again played by Adkins. However, in an unusual step for... well, any kind of film really, the bad guy from the previous film is now the good guy! Humiliated, humbled, and still injured from his brutal fight with Chambers, he is working as the prison janitor (i.e. he cleans poop), but he is filled with a renewed vigour when he learns of an inter-prison tournament to be held in Georgia (the country, not the US state), the winner of which will earn his release. There are eight fighters in all, representing Brazil, the US, and several European countries. Quickly installed as the bad guy (or in-ring bad guy at least) is juiced-up Colombian, Dalor (Marko Zaror), on whom everyone is encouraged to bet, but Boyka of course has other ideas. It's all ultra-predictable stuff but, again, the fight scenes are what you'll be watching to see, and they are very impressive for the most part. Adkins is outstanding again as the fearsome Russian and Lateef Crowder is a standout as the excellent Brazilian fighter. Only the Yankee fighter disappoints really. Definitely worth watching for fight fans... 7/10

Boyka: Undisputed (2016)

Boyka is now well and truly centre-stage as the series is renamed in his honour! Happily, the awesome Adkins is back as our favourite Russian ass-kicker too, who as a 'free' man is now fighting in underground MMA contests in the Ukraine in his ongoing quest to be the 'most complete fighter in the world'. When he accidentally kills his latest opponent, however, he is overcome with remorse and takes the risk of going back to Russia to make amends with the guy's wife. Naturally, this is done by competing in various fights! In other words, it's just another excuse to show off Adkins and his abilities which remain just as impressive as ever. Despite an attempt to inject a bit more drama and emotion into the story, though, the fight scenes are again pretty much the only reason to watch. Boyka is, as always, the most impressive fighter thanks to another committed Adkins performance, but the enormous Martyn Ford (look him up!) is also a stand out as the main (in-ring) bad guy. I don't know if we'll ever get another Boyka film, but if we do it's hard to imagine them finding a more intimidating opponent... 6/10
 

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