In a span of a couple of weeks, boxing has seen Manny Pacquiao lose a decision to an opponent he clearly defeated & the sport’s most recognizable name and face (Floyd Mayweather) announce on a press conference therefore making it official, that he was going to fight the most recognizable name currently in mixed martial arts (Conor McGregor) in a boxing fight. I guess boxing, just like manly movies, has seen better days. So we reminisce of not only great boxing fights of yesteryear but also great boxing movies of yesteryear.
When people speak or write of the “Undisputed” franchise most of the attention has gone to Scott Adkins for his portrayal of the character of Boyka in Parts 2, 3 and 4. I’m a big fan of Scott Adkins and I’m happy when he gets some appreciation for his talents or abilities which I think are not fully appreciated cause of the CGI action obsessed times we currently find ourselves in. However I believe not enough is mentioned of the movie that spawned the franchise directed by the great Walter Hill, 2002’s “Undisputed” starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames.
Wesley Snipes was one of those actors while I was growing up or coming of age that seemed to have a movie out every other week in theaters. I saw a lot of movies of his in the cinema and I’ve always felt this was one of his most underrated works. In this film Snipes plays a convict by the name of Monroe Hutchen who at one point in time was a real prospect in the sport of boxing until he fucked up and ended up serving a life sentence in a prison in the desert called “Sweetwater”. It’s been 10 years since his arrival in the prison and since he got there he’s been the undisputed, undefeated, boxing champ in boxing competitions which sees convicted criminals fight in boxing matches primarily with inmates from other prisons. These competitions with very lax rules, allow a betting syndicate to thrive in profits. A convicted mob boss inside the prison by the name of Mendy Ripstein played by Peter Falk is the one that mostly runs the operation.
These fight-action movies do not work unless one key element is in place and that is the character of the villain. This film succeeds because the villain is played by Ving Rhames and he brings the character of George “Iceman” Chambers to life gloriously.
Sylvester Stallone based Apollo Creed after Muhammad Ali, here Walter Hill , who co-wrote the screenplay with David Giler, has Mike Tyson not only serve as the inspiration for the main antagonist but also provided him with the idea that became the concept for the movie.
Hill and Giler were having lunch one day and discussed Mike Tyson, who was sentenced to prison for rape in 1992. Giler said they thought “it’s amazing how no studio has made a film out of this basic situation of the heavyweight champion of the world going to prison, the toughest environment in the world,” said Giler. Hill went and wrote some paragraphs about the idea then he and Giler wrote a full script.
One thing that I really like about this movie is it’s moral ambiguity. It’s never fully revealed whether or not the character of “Iceman” Chambers raped the woman that’s his accuser. Throughout the movie he maintains his innocence but it’s never revealed truly whether he did or not. Even though Chambers is an obnoxious, egocentric, foul mouth, arrogant asshole; he brings up some valid points that might prove his innocence or speaks of his innocence with such conviction that you may doubt those that found him guilty.
A lot of times in movies that take place in prison, the inmate’s crimes are not revealed because filmakers want the audience to sympathize with them. I like the fact that in this particular movie the Wesley Snipes character was not wrongfully convicted of anything, he was guilty of the crime he was convicted for. Snipes in a lot of movies plays an extrovert or a man who’s a fast talker, here he’s very subdued, very quiet. Snipes’s Monroe beat to death the man who was foolishly sleeping around with this woman. I mean, what kind of fucking idiot messes with Simon Phoenix’s girl?!
As Monroe said in the movie “He’s always been control of the of his emotions except the one time that he was not & that one time is the one that landed him in prison”.
This is not Walter Hill’s best movie but it is still a very good Walter Hill movie. It’s an underrated manly-boxing-prison film and we sure as shit could use a lot more of these type of movies these days.
So if you don’t give an ounce of a fuck about Conor McGregor’s & Floyd Mayweather’s so-called boxing fight, then my suggestion is watch this movie instead and you may have a better time.