Undisputed III: Redemption
Directed By: Isaac Florentine
Starring: Scott Adkins, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Mark Ivanir, Hristo Shopov, Robert Costanzo, Marko Zaror
Studio: Warner Bros.
Film Length: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: June 1, 2010
The Film ***
Undisputed III: Redemption continues the story of prison fighter Uri Boyka (Adkins) who was first introduced in Undisputed II: Last Man Standing. A devastating knee injury has relegated Boyka to mopping up latrines in the pit of a Russian prison where he is incarcerated. He secretly rehabs himself to the point where he challenges and dispatches the best fighter in crooked prison fight promoter Gaga's (Ivanir) stable, earning a place in an international eight man torunament at another prison where the grand prize is freedom for the last fighter standing. While training and doing hard labor at the new prison, Boyka strikes up a rivalry with a motormouthed American fighter named Turbo (Jenkins) which evolves into a begrudging respect. Their advance through the tournament appears to be heading towards an inevitable showdown, but the corrupt criminal gambling syndicate organizing the event is stacking the deck in favor of a South American fighter named Dolor, and even Gaga and Turbo's manager, Farnatti (Costanzo), appear to be in on the fix.
Having not seen any of the previous Undisputed films, which apparently transitioned from straight boxing to "Ultimate Fighting"-style "anything goes" battles between the first and second films in the series, I was expecting this third installment to be a fairly "bottom of the barrel" direct to video sequel. The film is a pretty straightforward prison/fight tournament genre exercise that delivers the expected amount of blood-splattering bone-crushing violence and testosterone-fueled drama along with the unavoidable non-explicit hint of homo-eroticism inherent to sweaty shirtless men bonding in movie prisons. I would not have bothered to make the latter point if the filmmakers had not actually been cheeky enough to work it into the plot by having the prison guards falsely accuse some of the fighters of having intimate relations.
Accepting that the filmmakers are not guilty of excessive ambition in terms of plotting or dialog, I have to admit that the film exceeded my low expectations. Probably its greatest asset is that the cast, many of whom must have been pulled from a very limited pool of people physically intimidating enough for their parts, can actually act. They may be saddled with some awful dialog, but between their performances and the way that director Isaac Florentine cuts things together, it never sounds as bad as it must have looked on paper. Adkins' thick Russian accent even stays consistent through the whole film.
In many ways, the film feels like a throwback to some of the popular 80s action films of stars like Jean-Claude Van Damme (Think Bloodsport) and maintains a cynical edge due to the Dirty Dozen-style rap sheets of its ostensible "protagonists". The action choreography is an obvious draw for a film like this, and director Florentine and his stunt team work well together to create viscerally (and borderline "eviscerally" ) effective extended fight sequences. As with the dialog, even when the performers are saddled with musty dusty "in-the-ring" cliches, such as the nagging injury that finds Adkins' Boyka reaching for his knee at points calculated to be most dramaticaly effective, the actors and stuntmen do a good job of "selling" the performance.
In short, while I was at best hoping for a film "so bad it was good", as it turns out, Undisputed III: Redemption proved to be a film good enough to be "not bad". As a matter of fact, if you are a fan of the genre and have no issues with occasionally graphic on-screen violence, go ahead and add a full star to my rating above.
The Video ****
Video is presented via a 1080p VC-1 encoding filling the entire 16:9 frame. The complete absence of film grain is indicative of its digital cinematographic origins. The lighting and production design are skillfully handled to prevent things from looking too antispetic while still yielding a highly detailed image. The only drawback to the presentation on disc are what appear to be some mild infrequent compression issues and a couple of instances of aliasing "shimmer". As one would hope for a modern high resolution digital production, there are no signs of excessive digital sharpening or filtering.
The Audio ****
Audio is in the form of a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 encoding. While the mix does not exploit the surround field as effectively as modern big-budget cinema action films, it does feature occasional heavy low frequency "oomph" during the fight sequences. Surrounds generally carry elements of score and general ambience, but a handful of scenes employ discrete directional effects such as an "audio flashback" late in the film where Boyko recalls several things said throughout the film while in the ring with an opponent. Fidelity and levels for dialog, music, and effects are well-produced for a home near-field listening environment.
The Extras *½
There are no on-disc extras on the BD, but as has been the case with all new release theatrical and DTV premiere Blu-ray releases from Warner in 2010, the BD is bundled with a second disc that contains an SD DVD and Digital Copy of the film. The Digital Copy is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media. The SD DVD presentation is "bare bones" with no extras or alternate language tracks, but it does include English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. It is a very solid SD video presentation with only mild aliasing and light MPEG artifacts during some highly detailed scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio suffers a bit from decreased fidelity compared to the lossless track on the BD, but is otherwise a quite good rendering of the same mix. The digital copy is accessed by placing the disc in a DVD-ROM drive and using the instructions and code provided on a paper insert to the disc case to unlock it.
The disc is enclosed in a standard sized "Eco-box" Blu-ray case with hubs on both inner sides of the case allowing it to accommodate both the BD and the DVD with Digital Copy.
Undisputed III: Redemption sets the bar low with a screenplay that is filled to the brim with cliches from the prison and fight tournament genres but then clears it handily thanks to some well staged fight sequences and better than expected performances from its cast. It is presented on Blu-ray disc with a solid 1080p rendering of its digital cinematography marred only by some light and infrequent instances of compression artifacts and aliasing. The 5.1 surround audio mix is only occasionally ambitious, but is produced faithfully by a lossless DTS-HD MA encoding. The only extras are SD DVD and digital copies of the film on a second disc.