"Pride Comes Before the Fall"
UNDISPUTED is the simple story of two boxers, one prideful and one humble, who coincidentally meet in prison and eventually fight to determine the UNDISPUTED heavyweight champion of the world. The filmmakers effectively tell this story by keeping to a simple moral theme of humility versus pride, but UNDISPUTED contains references to rape and prison homosexuality, brief nudity, plenty of strong foul language, and archetypal references to the immorality rampant in prisons and the sport of boxing.
UNDISPUTED is the story of two great boxers – one is the champion inside the prison system, the other is champion of the whole world outside – and how they “accidentally” meet in prison to determine who really is the UNDISPUTED heavyweight champion of the world. Walter Hill’s directing is virtually flawless. He effectively tells the story by keeping to a simple theme of humility versus pride. The editing is masterfully used to tell the boxers past stories through very well placed, brief, but concise, flashbacks. The all-star supporting cast is wonderful.
Wesley Snipes plays Monroe Hutchen, an undefeated boxer in California who was a rising star in the boxing world until he found his lady in bed with another man. In a rage, he beat the man up and unintentionally killed him. He is sentenced to life in prison without parole for using his hands as “lethal weapons.” Hutchen has continued his undefeated streak and is the UNDISPUTED champion of an inter-prison boxing program. He’s won the respect of the other prisoners through both his humility and his celebrity. He is their pride and joy.
Hutchen apparently has accepted his sentence and is humbly paying his dues to society. One slip of his temper has wound him up in prison. Rather than being bitter, he’s taken responsibility for his unfortunate actions and is making the best of it. He never denies his guilt and, as a loner, doesn’t make waves except in the boxing ring.
Ving Rhames portrays World Heavyweight Champion George “Iceman” Chambers. Chambers has been convicted of raping a Vegas showgirl – a charge he still denies (a la Mike Tyson). He has been sentenced to the same prison as Hutchen. The Iceman is very arrogant about his title. He romantically calls himself a “gladiator” because “people play baseball; nobody plays boxing.” He also seems a bit fearful about being in the penitentiary. He makes it clear to his cellmate that no one is to talk to him unless spoken to first. He even clocks a few guys just to keep the other inmates respectful toward him.
Rather than trying to get to know Hutchen, Chambers tries to intimidate him by slapping him in the face in front of the other inmates. He comments to Hutchen that he surely isn’t the prison system’s heavyweight champion. Hutchen replies quietly . . . every weight. A small scuffle ensues, and Hutchen is unfairly put into solitary confinement to keep the two men apart. Chambers tells the warden that he has to survive rather than be concerned about “good behavior.” Chambers reasons that, since he is the champion, everyone wants to test you, not only physically, but they’ll use money, women, favors, even TV, magazines and newspapers.
Another inmate, the patriarch of the prison, is a mobster convicted of tax evasion named “Mendy,” played by Peter Falk. He is a boxing aficionado who constantly studies films of old-school heroes like Dempsy, Louis, Marciano, and Frazier. He decides that the two fighters should duke it out to see who really is the champion. Mendy has little doubt that Hutchen can win the fight and works his connections through the Vegas mob, the state government and the Department of Corrections parole board to make the whole event happen.
Hutchen will have the opportunity to see just how good he is and will take 40% of the purse – potentially millions of dollars through illegal gambling – which he wants sent to his sister who has two children, no husband, no job and no skills for a job. The Iceman, for his involvement, will get out on early parole. Due to the illegalities of the contest, win or lose, no one but the fighters, prisoners and “investors” will know that the fight ever happened.
The one problem with the story is that viewers are encouraged to sympathize with both of the main characters in the film due to their situation. Flashbacks and the Iceman’s denials leave some doubt as to his guilt for rape. His outbursts in prison are due to his fear of getting killed or raped before he can get out and reclaim his title. Hutchen seemed to be on the road to the top when a crime of passion ended him up never to see freedom again. In prison, he works hard to keep his emotions under control. Several people left the theater asking, “Who do you root for?”
It all comes down to principles and character. In the end, both boxers seem both more content and humble after their confrontation in the prison ring for the UNDISPUTED boxing title.
The main thing that keeps this from being a film that would be more family inclusive is the merciless onslaught of foul language that just pours out of Mendy’s mouth every time he opens it. Unfortunately, it comes off as believable due to the character of the mobster and the setting. UNDISPUTED also contains references to rape and prison homosexuality, brief nudity, lots of action violence, and archetypal references to the immorality surrounding prison life and the sport of boxing.
(B, PaPa, Ho, PC, LLL, VV, S, NN, D, MM) Moral worldview of right and wrong and accepting punishment for one’s crimes, but with plenty of immoral pagan behavior in prison, mob setting; homosexual, politically-correct scene of prison transvestite sent to offer himself as a token of welcome/peace to the new black inmate by the leader of the prison’s black gang; about 78 obscenities and 10 profanities; lots of boxing violence, fighting in prison, prison guards fire guns to put down riot, and man sent to prison for alleged rape, but nothing really graphic or excessive; man finds girlfriend in bed with someone else and implications of homosexual acts in prison such as transvestite sent as a token of welcome/peace to prison inmate, who refuses the offer; brief upper female nudity and partial naturalistic male nudity; no alcohol use; smoking and reference to valium; and, gambling, corrupt prison officials, tattoos, Mafia influence depicted within prison as if they are really the ones running things, and corrupting effects of money.
UNDISPUTED is a well-produced movie about humility versus pride. It is the story of two great boxers – one a humble champion inside the prison system, the other a more arrogant champion of the whole world outside – and how they coincidentally meet in a penitentiary boxing ring to determine who really is the UNDISPUTED world champion. Wesley Snipes plays Monroe Hutchen, an undefeated boxer who finds himself in prison after committing a crime of passion. Hutchen has become the champion of an inter-prison boxing program. Ving Rhames plays “Iceman” Chambers, the heavyweight champion in the outside world, who’s sent to prison for a rape that he may not have committed. Peter Falk plays the prison’s mob patriarch, who arranges an illegal match between the two.
Director Walter Hill, who co-wrote the screenplay, effectively tells this story by keeping to a simple theme of humility versus pride. In the end, both boxers are visibly changed for the better by their experiences. Despite this moral tone, the movie contains references to rape and prison homosexuality, brief nudity, plenty of strong foul language, violence, and archetypal references to the immorality surrounding prison life and the sport of boxing