In order to make a boxing movie, one must follow certain rules. People need to act certain ways, and there are plot points that are essential for inclusion. Undisputed follows all these rules, and is marginally amusing, but there is nothing to hold anybody's interest until the climactic fight scene, and even then it's blatantly obvious what is going to happen. The twist that differentiates this from every other boxing movie is that everything here takes place in jail. The two contenders are Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes, Blade II, The Art of War) and James "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames, Lilo & Stitch, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). Hutchen was a rising star before he lost his temper and killed a man. He has been in prison for over a decade. Chambers is the reigning heavyweight world champion, and was convicted for rape.

Conveniently, the two end up in the same prison. Hutchen is the reigning champion of the prison boxing circuit, where inmates from different prisons fight. Chambers is looking to assert his authority, and to get out of prison. He is adamant that he is not a rapist. This is where Paulie, er Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk, Corky Romano, Made) steps in. Ripstein is a convicted mobster, and is the person that gets things done in prison. He wants to see a fight between Chambers and Hutchen, and it is in his power to make it happen. What's also nice is that he can pocket some money on the side. Because of the way that writer/director Walter Hill (Supernova, Last Man Standing) and writer David Giler (Alien3, Beverly Hills Cop II) structure the story, the big fight is the only thing to wait for. Although it looks like it may not happen, it is obvious that events will occur ensuring the fight. As a result, everything else is just filler.

And what dull filler it is. To try to keep the audience interested, Hill takes the time to try to develop some of the other inmates. None of them are interesting enough to pay attention to. He also tries to make it clear that neither Hutchen or Chambers are completely good or bad. Hutchen takes full responsibility for his actions. He is a model prisoner who happily spends his time with glue and toothpicks. He says he maintains tight control over his strength, and he is paying for the only time he lost control. Hill never delves into whether Chambers is innocent or guilty, and that is beside the point. He does present both sides, but does not give enough information to draw a conclusion. Tyson, er, Chambers claims that it was consensual and that he would never stoop that low, yet he is prone to violent outbursts. As soon as he arrives he begins causing problems with the other inmates. This is the minimal amount necessary to establish differentiable characteristics; the script does not go any further in character development.

It seems to take forever for the fight to actually happen. Once it does, it follows the typical boxing formula of swings in advantage. Nevertheless, Hill does manage to create a low level of excitement and energy with inmates chanting around a prison cage and some nice, fluid camerawork. There is something innately visceral about two people pummeling the heck out of each other that transcends any sort of lame script. Snipes and Rhames both underwent training to get the moves right, and they do a decent job of beating each other up. When not in the ring, Snipe's Hutchen looks completely ambivalent towards the outside world and Rhames goes way too far over the top. Hill also tries to spice things up with some fancy camera work and sound tricks between scenes. It's interesting the first couple times, then becomes a little distracting. However, the distraction is enough to keep people awake.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R for strong language.

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