Bullet Points: Undisputed 3: Redemption
We shouldn’t need a reason to bring together the greatest fighters in the world for a competition each year. There’s no reason why the most unique fighting styles from each culture shouldn’t want to test their skills against one another. That’s what I learned from watching martial arts movies growing up. Whether it was Enter the Dragon, Best of the Best 2, or Bloodsport, the excellent fight scenes, training montages, and endlessly awesome Stan Bush songs were just a few ways to convey the excitement around the gathering of fighters in movies of old.
Times have changed. Fighters aren’t clamoring to show their skills for the sole purpose of testing their mastery of their art; they need further motivations. Bring on the money!
Undisputed 3 isn’t the first film to depict the very secretive yet totally plausible prison fighting system but it might be the best to do so. In fact, the other two films in the Undisputed franchise to date have already touched on it but not in such a way that would create a protagonist that was so accepted by the audience. The characters in the franchise flip-flop more than a politician in November. Yuri Boyka is now the third chance at creating a “hero” that the fans can gather around and in Redemption, I think they’ve finally got a winner! No offense to Wesley Snipes or Michael Jai White but neither have embodied the personal journey of a character quite like Scott Adkins’ and his portrayal of Boyka. So as we celebrate another birthday of one of the best action stars alive today, let’s take a look at what I believe is his best movie yet in Undisputed 3: Redemption.
Synopsis: Yuri Boyka, the self-proclaimed “most complete fighter in the world” will now put his money where his mouth is when he steps into a ring with fighters from all across the world. Boyka must recover from a devastating leg injury in order to face a threat from a Colombian fighter who is seemingly unstoppable.
- From then to now: While I really liked the first movie in the series starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames, I wasn’t much of a fan of the second film. The two films are very different. The first being a pretty solid boxing movie which takes several liberties with what I would call the “Mike Tyson story” while the second is more of a direct to video fighting movie that never really connects its protagonist to the viewer. The main reason for this is because the second film drops the main character from the first film and instead follows the less interesting character of George Chambers in his stead. I don’t know why this done but it just didn’t work for me. Luckily, the makers of the third film in the series decided to do the same thing for the their film and follow the antagonist of the second movie and we get to see the redemption of Yuri Boyka. Trust me, he’s a much easier character to like than a convicted rapist.
- Prison workouts: Now I know that it’s been generally accepted that when a movie character goes to prison they suddenly get super jacked from working out all the time but even I had to call “bullshit” when the recently injured and psychologically destroyed Boyka pops his shirt off to reveal that not only is he still in shape from before his injury, but now he’s EVEN MORE YOKED! He must have been doing some serious P90X in his cell because his leg injury and his long hair and beard were telling me that his new reclusive lifestyle has kept him from hitting the weights like he used to.
- Worldly and Awesome: If you’re going to gather the best fighters from around the world then you should most certainly make sure that you have fighters who represent fighting styles as unique and sometimes as silly looking as we have in Undisputed 3. We’ve seen capoeira practitioners on film before in Only the Strong and The Quest, and I love me a good Lateef Crowder fight scene, but let’s stop pretending that capoeira is on par with jiujitsu and karate when it comes to the combat arts. On second thought, forget I ever said anything. Is there anything better than seeing Crowder go toe-to-toe with Scott Adkins?
- American Gladiator: Hello Mykel Shannon Jenkins, I’d like to introduce you to the real Turbo.
- What a Maneuver: We’ve heard that Boyka is the most complete fighter in the world for two films now and I believe that he finally proves it in this movie by breaking out several professional wrestling moves during fights. The most notable are the ‘German suplex’ and ‘hurricanrana’ he performs at different times in the movie. Clearly he has been studying Chris Benoit’s moveset which might explain what got him into prison in the first place. (too soon?)
- World War 3: Colombia vs. Russia. The battle to end all battles. Is anyone else surprised that the greatest fighters in the prison system come from these two countries?
- Art imitates Life: Another role reversal from the Undisputed series sees the man known as “Dolor” getting his comeuppance in a way that will be all too familiar to UFC fans, and especially Anderson Silva fans, around the world. The dreaded block of the leg kick results in a bone-shattering reminder of just how hard the shin bone is.
- Wrong Bet: I know that Scott Adkins has shared the screen with Jean Claude Van Damme several times, and he’s talked about his love for Van Damme movies growing up in interviews, but I don’t think I’m alone when I see Adkins as the standard bearer of martial arts movies in the same way that JCVD was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. No compliment could be greater, in my opinion. So it’s not surprising to me to see Adkins’ newest unreleased movie be a sequel to one of Van Damme’s greatest hits in Hard Target. As happy as it makes me to write that previous sentence, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of unfulfillment at the end of Undisputed 3 when Boyka didn’t tell his old boss “Wrong Bet” when he found out he didn’t put his money on him against the Colombian. Of course that would have connected the film to the 1990 hit Lionheart starring Jean Claude Van Damme, which would have made little sense, but it would have been a serious nod to action fans everywhere and just maybe have been the proverbial passing of the torch that has been in motion for years.
- I’m with Yuri: I believe that Undisputed 3: Redemption is the best tournament-style martial arts film made in many years. The tournament movies used to be all the rage. No Retreat, No Surrender, The Quest, Karate Kid, Bloodsport, Best of the Best and a bunch of others that I can’t think of right now created a subgenre that you may or may not love as much as me. There have been far fewer films that meet the qualifications of this subgenre over the past decade but Undisputed 3 far exceeded the expectations that I had for a fighting movie in this era. It’s safe to say that Scott Adkins’ character Yuri Boyka may be the new standard bearer of martial arts in cinema.
In closing, allow me to quote the character of Mykel Shannon Jenkins, better known as Turbo: “Where I come from, ain’t shit for free”. Let that soak in when you’re browsing around your favorite torrent sites looking to download the newest action movie to be released by Nu Image or any other production company. These movies aren’t made for free and unless fans of the films start actually paying to watch them they are going to cease from being made we’re going to have nothing but superhero movies, Avatar sequels, and shitty Transformers movies to watch in the future. The overwhelming majority of kickass action movies are being released direct to video, VOD, or released overseas, so paramount that we support stars like Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White by not stealing their movies on the internet. Don’t be a dick.