REVIEW: Undisputed II – Last Man Standing (2006)

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This sequel to a prison boxing film would become an iconic modern martial arts film with would be a trademark role for British martial artist and actor Scott Adkins.

Former heavyweight champion George “Iceman” Chambers has been released from prison. Having left his in-ring career behind, he is now relegated to using his past fame and is currently in Russia to take part in a vodka commercial. One night, Chambers is attacked by some men and when the police arrive, they discover drugs in Chambers’ Bible. Knowing he has been framed, Chambers is sent to Chorma Cholniy Maximum Security Prison.

Chambers soon learns his suspicions were correct. Russian mob boss Gaga has put Chambers in prison in order to take on the current prison champion, Yuri Boyka. At first, Chambers refuses to fight but soon learns that if he takes the fight, he can be released. However, when Boyka’s men drugs Chambers via water provided by Chambers’ cellmate, Chambers is upset and demands a rematch. However, knowing Boyka’s use of martial arts, Chambers finds an unexpected ally to help him adapt to a new fighting style in order to match Boyka in the rematch.

In 2002, Walter Hill’s original Undisputed, showcased the sport of boxing in prison, in which Ving Rhames took on prison champion Wesley Snipes in the ring. Four years later, Isaac Florentine was given the chance to direct this sequel and to amp up the excitement, he has decided to change from boxing to mixed martial arts, which began its soaring popularity by this time. Rhames was originally offered to return to the role of George Chambers, but schedule conflicts with his ill-fated Kojak series prevented him to return. Rhames would be replaced by actor and martial artist Michael Jai White, who displays both his action talent and his acting talent. He truly is a suitable replacement for Rhames.

However, the film truly belongs to British martial artist Scott Adkins, who after a short career in Hong Kong, broke through with teaming up with Florentine in Special Forces. In this film, Adkins plays Russian prison champion Yuri Boyka, a phenom of a martial arts fighter who strives and follows the Ric Flair philosophy of being the best: To be the man, you have to beat the man, the man being Chambers in this case. In a very shocking scene in the film, Boyka is revealed not to be a completely bad guy showing that just because you play an enemy of sorts, doesn’t mean you are completely bad.

Ben Cross gives great support as the ill-fated cellmate of Chambers, drug addict Steven, who attempts to change his life by helping Chambers only to be forced in a situation that becomes pivotal. Special Forces lead villain Eli Danker plays the wheelchair-ridden Crot, whose dark past becomes an asset for Chambers in terms of focusing and combat. He even brings a bit of comic panache during some of his training scenes with Chambers. Mark Ivanir is great as Russian mobster Gaga, Boyka’s handler who tends to have a penchant for fast food.

The film has a good story that has an intentional invocation of religion. In his introductory scene, Boyka is seen praying before his first fight of the film. Chambers has a Bible that he carries, which becomes the catalyst when his attackers plant drugs in it. In a very emotional scene, Chambers is tied up outside on a prison tower in the cold winter. Three men walk up to him and one gives him a hat, one a scarf, and the third, a jacket and a warm drink. This signifies the Three Wise Men of the story.

J.J. Perry takes charge of the film’s fight sequences with an uncredited assistance from none other than Florentine himself. The director, who is also an ace martial artist himself, had a hand in helping with some of the fight scenes on set. While White resorts to using more of a boxing style due to his character, the film’s action truly belongs to Adkins, who displays some fantastic techniques in his martial arts arsenal. Adkins’ kicking display is nothing short of phenomenal, using a variety of jump kicks, spin kicks, and his signature “Guyver” kick, a jump spin kick followed in mid-air by an angle kick to opponent.

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing is a fantastic action sequel that would become Scott Adkins’ ticket to action star status amongst fans. Michael Jai White makes a suitable replacement in a story that has touches of religion and some fantastic in-ring action that surpasses the original.

WFG RATING: A

A Nu Image Production. Director: Isaac Florentine. Producers: Danny Dimbort and David Varod. Writer: David N. White. Cinematography: Ross W. Clarkson. Editing: Irit Raz.

Cast: Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Ben Cross, Eli Danker, Mark Ivanir, Ken Lerner, Valentin Ganev, Daisy Lang, Silvio Simac, Iyalyo Geraskov, Atanas Srebrev, Michail Elenov, Velizar Binev.

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