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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Undisputed

Starring: Ving Rhames, Wesley Snipes
Director: Walter Hill
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: August 2002
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: Peter Falk, Steve Heinze, Ed Lover, Michael Rooker, Master P, Jon Seda, Wes Studi, Fisher Stevens

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

The Iceman cometh in UNDISPUTED, by hit-and-miss director Walter Hill (48 HRS. and SUPERNOVA). James 'Iceman' Chambers, a fighter obviously modeled on the infamous Mike Tyson, is played with relish by Ving Rhames (ENTRAPMENT). It's nice to see Rhames having a good time since probably few members of the audience will. The movie, with its propensity to cut to mug shot poses, is about as much fun as flipping through a book of mug shots at the local police precinct. The film also loves to cut to absolutely meaningless drawings of the prison's cellblock layout. Oh well, they need something to pad out the story until its inevitable ending in the big boxing match.

The setup for the story has Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes) as a star prison boxer. He's been in the can for ten years now and is the undisputed champion of the striped-clothes set. He's a toothpick artist in his spare time, creating everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to a religious temple. That the guards will allow him all of the sharp toothpicks he wants is but one of many logical problems in the script.

Monroe's position as the king of the hill comes into question when the Iceman, the heavyweight champion of the world, is sent to Monroe's prison after being convicted of rape. (The sleaziest part of the picture is the way that it keeps cutting back to the victim telling her story to the television reporters. It is as if we will believe her only if she is able to tell the same story ten times without variance.) Once incarcerated, the cocky Iceman picks a fight with everyone who can breathe. His special anger, however, is reserved for Monroe. In a real prison, anyone this obnoxious would undoubtedly end up with a knife in his back, but UNDISPUTED, for all its pretense at realism, is completely unbelievable. Are we really supposed to believe that a prison fighter like Monroe, who weighs at least 50 pounds less than the Iceman, could really have a chance at beating the world's number one boxer?

Also in the cast is Peter Falk, who rarely even bothers to open his eyes as he plays an old Mafioso. Some things improve with age, but not Falk's acting. Here he appears to be playing a parody of a parody of his old Columbo doofus detective. And speaking of not being able to keep your eyes open, this is going to be your problem as well as you wait through this lifeless movie in the hope that the ending boxing match will be worth the wait. It isn't.

UNDISPUTED runs 1:30. It is rated R for "strong language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ** 1/2. He said that he liked the two leads and the plot, but he had trouble staying awake through the movie.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, August 23, 2002. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters and the Century theaters.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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