REVIEW: Undisputed III – Redemption (2010)

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Four years after impressing martial arts fans with Undisputed II: Last Man Standing, director Isaac Florentine returns with the long awaited third chapter in the prison fighter films. This time, paying respects to the themes of the first two, British superkicker Scott Adkins returns to form as Russian mixed martial arts fighter Yuri Boyka.

After a crushing defeat by George “Iceman” Chambers, Boyka is now a toilet cleaner in the basement of the prison with a bum knee. He has learned his one-time backer, Russian mobster Gaga has backed another fighter. When a tournament involving the world’s top prisoners is coming up in the border of Georgia, Boyka decides to see if he has it in him. He trains and soon proves himself to enter the tournament when he easily defeats the prison’s current champion.

Boyka heads to Georgia, where the first Prison Sports Competition is being held. The prize for winning: a pardon from the prison system and a chance to be a free man. The competition is fierce, including brash American boxer Turbo, capoeira exponent Silva, North Korean taekwondo fighter Lim, and the heavy favorite, Colombian drug runner and killer Raul “Dolor” Quinones. As the tournament commences, a dark secret involving the fighters eliminated from the tournament is known and now, rivals will be forced to team up to not just fight for freedom, but for survival as well.

As a longtime fan of martial arts films, Hollywood had seemed for this reviewer, somewhat troublesome when it comes to the recent wave of fight films. While the elements of mixed martial arts, or MMA, seemed imminent, the films mainly with that element seem choppier if not really bad. That was, until 2006’s Undisputed II: Last Man Standing was released. The sequel to the 2002 prison boxing film made the drastic turn to MMA thanks to the sequel’s helmer, karate expert and action film director Isaac Florentine. It was his frequent collaborator, British martial arts ace Scott Adkins, who drove the film with his unique blend of ground fighting and acrobatic kicking skills, that made it one of the best American martial arts films since the glory days of the 80’s to the mid-90’s.

All of that is about to change as this film may in fact be the best of not just the sequels, but the best of the series as a whole. Scott Adkins, coming fresh off his last collaboration with Florentine, 2009’s Ninja, and his turn as Weapon XI in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, is in top form again as MMA fighter Boyka. While he wasn’t seen as a bad guy in the last film, he wanted to prove he was the best fighter. Here, he brings that back and more as well. Boyka realizes he has a purpose in life, but is unsure what it is. As the subtitle indicates, for Boykla, it is truly a chance at “redemption”.

The supporting cast of fighters does a great job as well. What many will find interesting is the bond that gradually forms between Boyka and brash American boxer Turbo, played by Mykel Shannon Jenkins. This is noticeable when Boyka’s sees a tattoo of Turbo’s kids on his chest, but on a subconscious level, it could be because Boyka’s last defeat was by that of a boxer. Perhaps, instead of Boyka’s one-time demand of evolution as a “supreme warrior”, he has a newfound respect for the various styles of martial arts. In their limited on-screen time as fillers, Ilram Choi and Lateef Crowder make the best use of their martial arts skills in respectively, taekwondo and capoeira.

Playing the prison champion favorite this time is Chilean martial arts fighter Marko Zaror. A former stuntman, Zaror wowed martial arts fans with his roles in Kiltro and Mirageman. Here, Zaror plays Raul “Dolor” Quinones, the champion at the prison where the tournament is being held. While he doesn’t have as many fight scenes as Adkins or Jenkins, Zaror is a showcase in his own right when he does fight. While press photos obviously indicate that Zaror and Adkins fight in the finals of the tournament, martial arts fans who have anticipated this match up will surely not be disappointed.

The credit for the martial arts fight scenes goes this time to Larnell Stovall, a member of the 87Eleven Stunt Team responsible for the good recent A-list action films Never Back Down and Ninja Assassin. Stovall has definitely did his homework and combined with Florentine’s direction and Ross Clarkson’s cinematography, used the cast’s martial arts skills to perhaps the highest of expectations. The result? Winning the Best Fight Choreographer Award at the 2010 ActionFest Film Festival.

If you want to see a good, no, make that awesome fight film, Undisputed III: Redemption is truly one of the greatest American martial arts ever made. A stellar cast, developed storyline, and some of the best fight scenes this side of the hemisphere make this an instant action classic!

WFG RATING: A

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment present a Nu Image production. Director: Isaac Florentine. Producers: Israel Ringel and Zvia Dimbort. Writer: David N. White. Cinematography: Ross W. Clarkson. Editing: Irit Raz.

Cast: Scott Adkins, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Marko Zaror, Mark Ivanir, Robert Constanzo, Valentin Ganev, Hristo Shopov, Lateef Crowder, Ilram Choi, Vernon Dobtcheff, Esteban Cueto.

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