Saturday, July 31, 2010

An UNDISPUTED Happy Birthday to Wesley Snipes

Is it my imagination or is Wesley Snipes – born on this date in 1962 – sorta like The Black Steven Seagal?

At one time both had promising careers as big-time action stars. Both have recently been dogged by legal woes. And both have been largely relegated to the direct-to-video section of the video store. (Do we still have video stores?)

All Wesley needs to complete the comparison is a bloated reality TV show in which he rides around with some local cops, dispensing Zen justice and signing an autograph or two. ("Oh my gawd?! Is that Wesley Snipes? Oh that's one handsome man! Wait'll I tell my auntie, she watches ALL his movies! Well... not the new ones.")

If you're looking for a flick to pop in for a birthday celebration of Snipes-ian proportions, you could do worse than the underrated prison boxing flick UNDISPUTED, co-starring Ving Rhames and directed by the always-reliable Walter Hill. Lost in the shuffle during his BLADE flicks and attempts to hold onto his Bankable Action Star Membership Card with the likes of ART OF WAR, UNDISPUTED had a blink-and-you-missed-it theatrical run but has spawned at least two sequels directed by Isaac Florentine.

As for the original, Ving Rhames (PULP FICTION, Vanessa Williams' Radio Shack commercial hubbie) stars as The Iceman, an undefeated heavyweight boxing champ serving time for rape. Sound familiar?

Birthday boy Wesley Snipes (BLADE, ART OF WAR) is Monroe Hutchens, serving a life sentence for a murder committed in the heat of passion (naturally). A highly-regarded fighter while on the outside, Hutchens has taken advantage of the prison's boxing program and hasn't lost a fight in the decade that he's been in the joint.

Sent to the same prison where Hutchens reigns supreme, The Iceman quickly tries to establish his dominance through violence and intimidation. When the wheels of the system get set in motion, a battle between Hutchens and The Iceman is inevitable. And to Hill's credit, the inevitable winner isn't a forgone conclusion.

It's too bad that they couldn't have cast The Iceman role with somebody more athletic or believable than Rhames. While he's certainly an imposing presence, he comes off as big and lumbering, not an athlete who dominates his sport on the outside. Snipes, on the other hand, is in marvelous shape (big surprise) and gives his character more humanity, poise and depth than was probably needed.

Unfortunately, writer/director Walter Hill's prison/boxing hybrid was in and out of theaters in a flash and got lost in the 2002 event flick shuffle. Not that it's anything great like Hill's EXTREME PREJUDICE, but it certainly wasn't deserving of this fate.

UNDISPUTED is available from (ER receives a small referral fee for purchases made through our Amazon links. Thanks for your support.)

1 comment:

Tower Farm said...

Underrated is right! I love this movie. It feels like a Charles Bronson movie. Very cool.