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Undisputed Reviews

Two incarcerated boxers go head-to-head, but it's the movie that gets K.O.'d by just about every prison/boxing movie cliché in the book. With a record boasting 67 wins and zero losses, Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes) has been the undisputed, undefeated champion of the California State Inter-Prison Boxing Program for the past 10 years. Once a heavyweight hopeful on the outside, Hutchens is now serving a long murder sentence at Sweetwater Prison, a barbed-wire fortress in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Hutchens knows the most a boxer can hope for is a brief moment at the top, but the end of his reign may be coming sooner than he thought. On the outside, showgirl Tawnee Rawlins (Rose Rollins) has accused the World Heavyweight Champion, George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), of raping her in a Vegas hotel room. A jury believed her, and the 35-year-old Iceman, convicted and stripped of his title, will now be spending the next six-to-eight years behind Sweetwater's walls. Hutchens's fellow inmates are eager for a showdown between Iceman and their own champ, chief among them Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk), a boxing aficionado and old-school gangster with strong Mob ties and considerable pull with the prison authorities. With the Inter-Prison Boxing Program already raking in the bucks, thanks to a large volume of outside betting, Ripstein stands to make a fortune if Iceman and Hutchens will just agree to step into the ring together. Prison authorities are worried about having to handle a PR nightmare should anything happen to Iceman, but Iceman needs money to settle Rawlin's civil suit, and Ripstein's mention of of the possibility of early release could mean salvaging his career. For Hutchens, meanwhile, a match-up with Iceman would mean risking the one thing he can call his own: his reputation. Writer-director Walter Hill and co-writer David Giler try to create characters out of the obvious clichés, but wind up using them as punching bags. The Iceman's storyline deliberately echoes the real-life conviction of former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson, but while the film raises a number of provocative questions about image, news reporting and reality, Hill and Giler abandon it all for a third-act countdown to the climatic bout. Shot through the bars of a barbed-wire topped cage and staged to a pounding soundtrack, the fight is quite a spectacle, but it's ultimately an empty one.