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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
• Commentary with Director Warren P. Sonoda and Producer Sean Buckley
• Interviews with Fighters Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, and Nate Marquardt
• Directing a Chase Scene/Fight Choreography
• Behind the Scenes
• TapouT promos
Ever wish that those bikini-clad chicks who strut around with the ring in between rounds at an MMA match would actually be naked? Here ya go.
Starring: Hector Echavarria, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, Keith Jardine, Nate Marquardt, Jordan Madley, Nicholas Campbell
Writers: Hector Echavarria, Brad Bode, Warren P. Sonada
Director: Warren P. Sonada
Ringo Duran (Echavarria) is down on his luck. He can’t win a fight. He owes twenty grand to a guy you don’t want to owe twenty grand to. And to top it all off, he’s treated like crap at work. But when his protege, Link (Steven Yaffee) enters his name into a competition to fight for a chance to take on the reigning champ (Evans) and win $100,000, Ringo’s life might just be turning around. Oh, and he’s also dating a smoking hot stripper. Not too shabby.
Billy didn’t mind when people laughed and called it a “flavor saver.” Indeed, that’s exactly what he had it for.
I can’t believe that this movie didn’t suck hard. I also can’t believe that I actually kinda liked it, even though I expected it to be thoroughly unwatchable.
And could you really blame me? I mean, the DVD cover boldly claims that Unrivaled is presented by TapouT while not even bothering to give the film’s star (and co-writer and executive producer, Hector Echavarria) the tiniest credit. Rest assured, though, that they made sure to display all of the MMA fighters’ nicknames prominently above the marquee — seriously, would a real movie give more attention to its main sponsor than to the main star?
Somehow, someway, accidentally on purpose or something, this movie actually gels. And it does this by knowing exactly what kind of movie it is and by delivering just what their audience wants: fist-fights and full-frontal nudity. And deliver it does. The movie opens with our hero Ringo getting his ass beat by an opponent twice his size and half his age. It then goes straight to the strip club with gratuitous slo-mo shots aplenty of naked chicks pole dancing and writhing on happy extras’ laps. In fact, in between the few moments of blatant exposition, that’s pretty much the entire first act. What’s not to love?
So this is what Benicio Del Toro’s stand-in does when not stunt-doubling in mediocre werewolf movies.
If you look under the hood, what we’re dealing with here is the standard issue Rocky rip-off — aging fighter looking to prove himself in the ring against the best. In this case, our Rocky is an aging chap named Ringo (apparently fighters must have five-letter names starting with an R) who works as a barback in a nightclub to pay the bills. His Apollo Creed is none other than the undefeated Christopher “The Pressure” Holland, who happens to be looking for a fight with one of the local unknowns — sound familiar? Ringo is one of four local guys picked for the chance to take on the reigning champ, just so long as he’s not taken out by the local crime lord, Sergio, to whom he owes the twenty grand. Pretty stock storyline, and not all that surprising considering Ringo himself co-wrote the script.
And while the Rocky parallels don’t just end with the name alliteration — Ringo is frequently called a bum; Ringo finds out that he’s been selected for the competition while watching the TV at the gym; the whole underdog plot about a simple fighter — Unrivaled does bring it’s own new element that keeps the movie moving forward. After we find out that Ringo owes Sergio a cool twenty grand, instead of merely acting as the incentive for Ringo to win the whole tournament and it’s one-hundred-big-ones purse, the filmmakers have fun with this subplot and have Sergio convince Ringo’s opponents to throw the fights so that he can bet on the underdog and make real coin. This means that we end up with a few actual acting scenes for Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine – which is like asking a toddler to solve differential equations – but it’s worth it because without this solid B-storyline, we’d be left with a series of mediocre staged-fight scenes and not a whole lot else.
“Oh, come on! Really, guy? The YCMA dance? That shit is over 30 years old. Gimme a break!”
And that’s the main issue I have with the movie. For being a stylized depiction of mixed martial arts, there’s very little brutal about the fight scenes. The Kumite this is not. Except for the scene where Ringo’s opponent has a metal plate hidden in his glove, so that every blow he landed felt like Ringo was getting slammed with bricks, we rarely even see fists connecting with faces. The payoff for that scene, though, was priceless — Ringo takes the guy down by pummeling him with his own brass knuckle-clad fist. Bad-ass. If they could’ve put together a few more moments like that in the fight scenes, this could’ve been something I could truly recommend.
And it’s a shame. Because this is the kind of movie that, if I were fourteen years old again, I would for sure catch on Cinemax late some Saturday night with friends to rejoice the splendor of boobs and bare-knuckle brawls. Unfortunately, of the two, it only delivers on the boobs. Which is too bad because it has just about everything else — a ridiculous subplot of the bickering TV announcers that has to be due to sexual frustration; a foot chase and ensuing street rumble; a poetry-spouting stripper; a lead actor that looks and sounds like the Latino Jackie Chan; and, best of all, the flashback of an epic showdown between two of the best female fighters ever, one of whom happened to be Ringo’s mom. But at the end of the day, the youths of today need their Bloodsport, not their Best of the Best 3.
Having his left hand melt into a solid fist was great for the ring, but it sure didn’t leave Darryl many options when it came to hitting his own speed bag, if you know what I mean.
Standard stats: it’s presented in
widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.0. It’s also pretty stocked with special features. If you’re into UFC fighters then you’ll dig the interviews with the headliners, who all seem like total sweethearts when not in the ring trying to kill each other. However, the director is quite a knob, equating his film techniques and choices to that of Saving Private Ryan, The Bourne Identity, and Narc. None of which does he even come close to touching, but, hey, it’s good to reach for the stars, right?
The high-flying, non-optional, vertical 69. Presented by TapouT.
out of 10