Starring: Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Mark Ivanir, Ilram Choi, Lateef Crowder
Following the events of Undisputed II, we find Uri Boyka (Adkins) still in a Russian Prison, his shattered knee meaning he is no longer a fighter – instead he is relegated to mopping out the toilets. When he hears word of a new, inter-prison tournament, he starts to rehabilitate himself, eventually managing to beat his prison’s new champ and take his place. Transferred to a prison in Georgia for the tournament, he and six other fighters must endure back-breaking hard labour while the prison’s favourite, the Columbian Dolor (Zaror) resides in relative comfort. Boyka makes a begrudging friendship with the American fighter, Turbo (Jenkins), but will either of them overcome the huge odds stacked against them?
Undisputed II was a great example of a DTV sequel proving to be better than the original film. Undisputed III raises that bar even further, making the Undisputed series the exception to the rule of diminishing returns. The effort and craft put into this film far exceeds its budget. Nu Image are proving to be a powerhouse of well-crafted action movies and Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins are their standard bearers.
There is a huge amount of detail that has gone into the production of this film. Boyka’s tattoos for example tell a story all by themselves, representing his religious beliefs, his time in the mafia and his martial arts heritage. Then there is the development of Gaga. We know he’s all about the money, but he is also a deeply honourable man. Gaga’s story arc is one of my favourite aspects of the film.
The acting and character development is excellent here. Mykel Shannon Jenkins’s Turbo is the American loudmouth, much like Michael Jai White’s George Chambers. However a spell in “the cage”, a tiny solitary confinement cell, sees him drop the tough guy act and shows a more human and sympathetic side.
Adkins’s Boyka is driven by an internal anger and frustration. He knows he’s the best fighter in the world, but has so far failed to prove it succinctly. The last time he faced “proper” competition (ie George Chambers) he was beaten and severely injured. When Boyka faces the Brazilian (Lateef Crowder), it’s the first time that we have seen Boyka show any of his opponents any respect and it’s a great wake-up call to the audience, indicating that Boyka has kind of turned a corner in his life. As for his final scenes, Adkins really delivers some passionate, heartfelt moments and has an amazing send-off.
Marko Zaror – an excellent martial artist from Chile who has starred in the likes of Mirageman, Kiltro and the upcoming Mandrill – makes a brilliant villain. Living a life of relative comfort while his competitors endure back-breaking labour, Dolor loves to rub their faces in it, sitting on top of a hill, reading poetry and sipping iced drinks. He also gets some proper training time, even a bunch of sparring partners to work on, giving us an early taste of his skills. In the ring, the man is a complete showman, a veritable Apollo Creed who completely decimates his opponents much like Boyka did in the previous film. His fight against Ilram Choi is excellent because it isn’t one-sided. Choi gets plenty of flying kicks and strikes in but Dolor is much stronger, faster and even more agile than the Korean (of course the steroids provided by the prison help).
The fight scenes are some of the best you’ll ever see in a US movie. Even Mykel Shannon Jenkins, who isn’t a natural screen fighter, is made to look like he’s been doing this for years. His initial fight is excellent, especially when he realises that his fighting style isn’t working and changes styles mid-fight. Ilram Choi also has an excellent bout with Marko Zaror, showing off some amazing kick combos. Choreographer Larnell Stoval, who was hand-picked by Undisputed II’s choreographer J.J. Perry, does an excellent job. Stoval has a much more diverse “palette” to work with and is able to showcase a wider range of fighting styles. Meanwhile, Isaac Florentine directs the action perfectly, the camera moving in, around and even over the ring, and capturing some of the brutal flying kicks and reverse punches in super slow motion.
Of course, it is the final bout between Boyka and Dolor, which is the main draw, and it is an epic battle. Even though we know Boyka is the “most complete fighter in the world” he is still seen as the underdog, considering what he’s been through up to this point. Plus Dolor, being the intelligent fighter he is, targets Boyka’s bad knee... Suffice to say the end result deserves to be described as epic.
You will not find a more perfect example of a martial arts tournament movie. Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror et al act their roles like their lives depended on it and Isaac Florentine and Larnell Stoval have crafted some amazing action.
9 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
NB: For some reason, Warners have decided not to release
in the UK - at least not in the discernable future. This is a ridiculous move, as it leaves the door wide open to illegal downloads. However, you'll be "glad" to know that the US Blu-Ray is Region-free, and I urge all UK fans to buy that version - whether from Amazon, PlayUSA or elsewhere, for the time being. (MikeOutWest).
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