Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Undisputed III: Redemption (2009) - By Mark Oswald

Well the wait is over. I’ve certainly mentioned it enough times in my other reviews, but Undisputed III: Redemption is finally here; and it is, in a word, awesome. In Undisputed II: Last Man Standing, Michael Jai White played George Chambers, an American boxer who is framed and placed in a Russian prison in order to take on the reigning champion of its one-on-one prison battles, which are televised and subsequently bet on by shady underworld figures. The champion that Chambers had to defeat in order to gain his freedom was Uri Boyka (Scott Adkins), a badass Russian dude who fancied himself “the most complete fighter in the world”. In this movie, Boyka has become the main focus point and relegated as our hero. Though I’m sure if he heard anyone call him a “hero”, he’d tear their arms off.

After his humbling defeat in the previous film, the master fighter has been relegated to cleaning up toilets. He limps around the concrete bowels of the penitentiary, mop in hand, thanks to the knee injury he sustained from his previous bout. He’s still got the urge to butt heads, though, so he trains himself the best he can and manages to get himself a spot in the biggest prison fighting tournament in the land, with competitors from all over the world flown in to participate. The winner is supposedly given their freedom, while the losers are sent back where they came from… again, supposedly.

That’s basically all the setup you need going into this movie. In fact, you probably don’t even have to see the second one (though you definitely should) since all you need to know about it, they show in a few quick flashbacks. The fights, once again, are nothing short of spectacular. Seriously some of the best I’ve ever seen. What’s best is that Director Isaac Florentine continues to show his love for the martial arts through long, fluent cuts, shot to maximize awesomeness. No shaky-cam, over-edited garbage here. The fisticuffs are coordinated in a manner that is high on style, but not so over the top as to seem ridiculous.

A very hands-on Director
Returning as Boyka, Adkins obviously gets more to do this time around, other than simply look menacing and intimidate people. Still not much for words, he forms an unlikely bond with an American fighter, who, in essence, actually forces him to exert more dialogue. It’s great to see how differently Adkins plays his characters from film to film. He’s virtually unrecognizable in appearance and sound in the Undisputed films when compared to his look in Ninja or The Shepherd: Boarder Patrol. Even in The Tournament, his Russian character looks completely different than Boyka. I think he was even using a different type of Russian accent as well, so points to him for that! He’s also a lot more charismatic playing Russians than Americans, as I mentioned he came off a little stiff at times in Ninja. I’m still waiting to see how he fairs in his native voice, though. In this movie, they do a good job of making his character more sympathetic than before, but I liked how they didn’t just automatically make him likable either. He’s still kind of a grumpy asshole, but it’s his determination to be the best combined with his stubbornness and hardcore since of honor that make you root for him.

Zaror examines his competition

Chilean Martial Artist Marko Zaror plays the bad guy this time around. I’ve heard his name mentioned before in reviews of Mandrill and Mirage Man, but never actually seen him in action until now. He plays a Columbian fighter who is the prison’s current champion. He gets a lot of perks that the other combatants do not. He sits in a lawn chair under a tarp, drinking tropical beverages and watching from upon high while the other guys do hard labor, breaking rocks all day (and this is BEFORE they’re allowed their daily hour of training). Zaror’s fighting style is very free-form and loose, and he makes a lot of goofy faces to fuck with his opponents while in the ring. Outside the ring he gives just as many, so I’m not sure if he’s fucking with us, the viewer, as well, or if that’s just the character. Like Boyka in the previous film, Zaror doesn’t get a ton of dialogue either, but he still manages to stick in your head thanks to his man-childish looks and weirdo charisma; a completely different kind of villain from the last film, which is admirable.

I’m still having a hard time figuring out which Undisputed sequel I like better. Both have excellent fight scenes, memorable villains, and a heart-on-their-sleeve sincerity. Neither gets weighed down with unnecessarily complicated plots either, unlike a lot of Direct to Video Action films these days. They keep it simple; real simple; like absolutely no excess baggage at all. This may be a deterrent to film-snobby people looking for some high-art cinema, but just because these films are uncomplicated, doesn’t mean they aren’t artistic. It’s a different kind of talent on display.

So in closing, Undisputed III may not be Citizen Kane, but it could very well be the Citizen Kane of modern fight films; and boy, how’s that for an endorsement?

Body Count – 13

Heads Busted – 14

Mopping Scenes – 5

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