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OnTV Today's Date:

Release Date: November 26, 2002
Run Time: 94 mins.

Ten-Second Rundown: Inside Sweetwater Prison, an aging gangster (Peter Falk) arranges a dream fight between the world Heavyweight champion (Ving Rhames) and the prison boxing champ (Wesley Snipes).


  • A Conversation with Ving Rhames
  • A Conversation with Wesley Snipes

    Choice Scene: Chapter 5, Ving Rhames vs Fisher Stevens, a true dream bout.

    Tech Specs: Widescreen (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 televisions, English 5.1 Dolby Surround

    It starts with Heavyweight Boxing Champ James 'Iceman' Chambers (Ving Rhames) headed for Sweetwater Prison on a rape charge he vehemently denies. Unbeknownst to him, Sweetwater houses Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes), a lifer with fast hands and a spotless prison boxing record. And just like that, the stage is set for an old-fashioned yarn where two undefeated men climb into a cage knowing that only one will leave with that reputation intact.

    This isn't just a pride fight though. Just like in real boxing the real action involves the money and power from outside the ring. Wielding that power and money is "Mendy" Ripstein (Peter Falk), an aging gangster and pugilism enthusiast from way back (think John L Sullivan's bare knuckle days). He hopes to pull all the right strings to put together one last great match-up before his final round bell rings.

    The only true movie STAR in Undisputed, Snipes shows a level of talent we haven't seen glimmers of since his Spike Lee films. The picture brims with a cast of character actors finally allowed to step up to the plate. Rhames makes a great champ with his hulking physique and broiling anger. Not too bright but never stupid, his Iceman only knows how to fight and does so with everyone and everything, stylishly and skillfully.

    Falk's Ripstein might out-tough the tough guys in Sweetwater with his untouchable confident air. In the smaller roles Michael Rooker, Wes Studi, and Fisher Stevens (who is becoming Tracey Walter at an alarming rate) all comport themselves with the style straight out of the classic Warner Brothers stable.

    Hill introduces us to all of these characters with on-screen statistics in a really nice pulpy touch. Sure, the picture obviously owes the start of the set-up to Mike Tyson's legal troubles but that's the only part that owes anything to reality. Sweetwater prison purely exists in the world of pulp novels and b-pictures and that's the way it should be.

    In fact some of the characters seem to actually be from Hill's masterpiece The Warriors (possibly the greatest film of all time). The skinhead gang looks a lot like The Warriors' Turnbull ACs and Saladin wears the uniform headpiece and sunglasses sported by The Riffs.

    A wiser man than I once said that everyone in a Walter Hill film is pissed off for no particular reason and although these inmates have their reasons, Undisputed has that fable of men feel that Michael Bay has spent his career hollowly mimicking. Hill made his reputation writing and later directing hardboiled guy pictures like The Getaway, Streets of Fire and The Warriors and while Undisputed may not quite equal those classics it's closer than anything we've gotten in a long time.

    Unfortunately for the consummate Walter Hill fan that I am, the extras leave much to be desired. The two interviews are straight out of the Entertainment Tonight interview bargain bin. The only interesting tidbit comes from Rhames who lets on that he had been attached to a Sonny Liston picture for a while and that's why he was in boxing shape when this picture came up. Other than that, it's the standard actors talking about scripts like they're writers.

    I understand that this picture disappointed at the box office, but the studio has apparently given up on the possibility that a boxing picture could interest anyone. The box art features helicopters and an inexplicable explosion (there are no explosions in the film) making this boxing picture look more like a straight to video blaxploitation 'Nam picture. Sadly, this picture will just drop into video stores and slip by the audience that deserves to see it.


    Jordan Rosa


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