This is the sort of film that just oozes testosterone, made by a super-macho filmmaker interested in super-macho themes and taking absolutely no prisoners. Released in late August of 2002, Walter’s Hill’s grossly underrated Undisputed skillfully combined two genres – the boxing and prison picture – into a totally ass-kicking combo of intense character dynamics and bloody fisticuffs. Starring the jacked-up duo of Ving Rhames and Wesley Snipes as convicts who also happen to be fierce pugilists, the scenario concocted by co-screenwriters Hill and frequent collaborator David Giler is tough, smart yet over the top, and completely entertaining from beginning to end. It seems that the high-security prison that the two men find themselves in is home to an underground and very violent boxing syndicate, with brutal fights gripping the compound and fetching potentially lethal paydays. It’s all so ridiculous and yet totally entertaining because of that fact.
The rough-house supporting cast included Michael Rooker, John Seda, Wes Studi, Master P, Ed Lover, Fisher Stevens, and Peter Falk in an unnecessarily amazing performance as a mob boss who helps to organize the jailhouse bouts. Lloyd Ahern’s muscular camerawork got in close during the boxing matches and set an ominous tone in conjunction with the location shooting at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada, and blunt-force editing by Freeman Davies and Phil Norden. I love a movie like this – it’s unpretentious, gets down to business fast, and because Hill is such a guy’s-guy craftsman, it all feels mean and surly. Despite mixed reviews from critics and totally bombing at the box office, Undisputed has certainly attained a cult status, paving the way for multiple DTV-sequels (which I’ve not personally seen) and a solid spot on Hill’s thoroughly righteous and exceedingly masculine filmography.