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Undisputed: And the Winner Is . . . Who Cares?

<I>Undisputed</I>: And the Winner Is . . . Who Cares?
Undisputed - R

Best for: Mature male audiences who enjoy fight movies.

The plot: For 10 years at the Sweetwater penitentiary, boxing has been dominated by one undisputed champion, Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes). The boxing matches are approved by the warden (Denis Arndt), supervised by the guards (Michael Rooker) and run by frail mob figure Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk), who uses the fights to further his bookie career. All bets are off when the heavyweight champion of the world, George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), is convicted of rape and comes to Sweetwater facing a long sentence. While his attorneys desperately try to figure out a way to get him out, Chambers quickly establishes that he's the only "champion" in the prison and that he wants to be left alone. But Ripstein sees a way to humble the champ and make a lot of money for himself, so he arranges a fight between Monroe and the champ, with the winnings buying both men what the want. Fisher Stevens, Wes Studi, Jon Seda and Ed Lover also star.

The good: There's no way you can watch this movie and not feel like Director Walter Hill has given us a "champion in prison" story based on the real-life character of Mike Tyson. Hill uses flashbacks of TV interviews and lawyer scenes to show the controversy and severity of Chamber's claims of innocence. Rhames is perfectly cast as the fighter who thinks he's the king. He embodies the Iceman, right down to his intense stares, swaggering walk and personality. A handful of other colorful characters carry the drama and make this movie interesting: Lover as the boxing announcer during the few matches in the film, Stevens as Monroe's corner man who acts tough despite his small size, and Seda as the go-between man the mob secretly hires on the inside, to make sure nothing happens to Ripstein.

The bad: I was disappointed with the Snipes character. He's an action star who has carried several movies and can play the tough guy with a cool, controlled demeanor, but this time, his Zen-like character is underwritten and overshadowed by the strong personality of Rhames. Instead of Snipes looking cool and mysterious, he ends up looking weak and void of a personality the audience can root for. Since we never really learn anything about him (except a flashback showing Monroe finding his woman in bed with another man), it's hard to connect or even really root for his character. In the end, I found myself not really caring who won. The melodrama that surrounds a story about the "Heavyweight Champion of the World" needs to have two strong characters constantly at odds. What the movie does have is a lot of strong language. Falk's character is a babbling old man who enjoys using the "F"-word (I stopped counting at around 50) and delights in talking about "the old days" of fighting.

Offensive language: The heavy use of the "F"-word and various derivatives is offensive and excessive. Other offensive language, such as scatological terms, religious profanities and crude prison talk, is in almost every scene.

Sexual situations: Chambers describes the night he had sex with the woman who accused him of rape, saying she liked the sex. The woman says she said no but Chambers would not stop. Two people having sex jump up and cover themselves (but no sex or full nudity is shown). A prison shower scene shows bare chests and one man's bare backside.

Violence: Obviously, there are several fight scenes both in the ring and out. Guards ward off a riot in the cafeteria after a huge fight breaks out, a man is slapped in the face and he shoves the other man back into a crowd, and a man is punched in the stomach.

Parental advisory: This is an "R"-rated fight movie for adults.

It's a wrap: I'm not a fan of boxing in real life, but I have to admit that I enjoy a good boxing movie. This is not one of them. Undisputed is a good-looking film, but it could have been much better with the right chemistry between the two stars. If you're looking for that chemistry, a clash of personalities or ideals, or any redeeming Rocky moment in this story, it's just not there.



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