After two misfires with Never Surrender and Death Warrior, could the third time be the charm for martial artist turned filmmaker Hector Echavarria? The answer is both yes and no, but the film does improve in terms of executing the script by cutting down some elements unnecessary in the previous films.
Ringo Duran is a down on his luck fighter who has gone past his prime and fights for as little as $500 while owing a big debt to loan shark Sergio. To make ends meet, Ringo works as a bartender at a local strip club. At the local gym where he trains, he always gets hassled by the younger Alonso due to his age despite having the ability to fight.
However, an opportunity for Ringo to turn his downward spiral back upwards is imminent. A professional fight circuit offers $100,000 to the winner of an upcoming tournament providing that not only will he make it to the finals but defeat the current world champion, Christopher “The Pressure” Holland. Ringo begins to train for the tournament and is determined to prove everyone wrong by winning the tournament.
With his first two entries in the MMA genre, things began to look bleak for Argentinian martial arts expert and action star Hector Echavarria. The issue with both Never Surrender and Death Warrior were that the focus was just as much action in the ring as there was borderline softcore action or nudity. However, for this third entry, it seems like Echavarria decided to tone the latter down when compared to the previous two films and focus more on an emotional story and the MMA action. One would think Echavarria would have learned his lesson by now, and in some aspect he slowly begins to with this film. Thankfully, he ditched the unnecessary T&A elements for his film Chavez: Cage of Glory, a film that looks to be a loose remake of this very film.
As mentioned, real-life MMA fighters make up the tournament fighters in this film. Rashad “Sugar” Evans plays the current champion “The Pressure”, who will go to great lengths to keep his title. Keith Jardine plays the hot-headed Alonso, who constantly berates Ringo because of his age. Forrest Griffin and Nate Marquardt play tournament fighters as well. While Evans’ character is the champion, the true villain comes in the form of loan shark Sergio, played by veteran soap opera star Al Sapienza. Sergio is seen as a true scumbag who will do anything for money, even nearly ruin Duran’s hopes of being a champion.
Unrivaled could have marked the charm for Hector Echavarria and it’s a very small charm. It falls just slightly short like the previous MMA-themed films he has worked on. While he has more MMA-themed films lined up, he should attempt to do something different and work with a more talented fight choreographer and learn from whoever he works with. It is best to rent the film and see for yourself, but expect a bit of an improvement from his previous films.
WFG RATING: C
Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Grindstone Entertainment present a BUCK Productions film in association with Destiny Entertainment Productions and Insight Films. Director: Warren P. Sonoda. Producers: Barry Brooker and Sean Buckley. Writers: Hector Echavarria, Brad Bode, and Warren P. Sonoda. Cinematography: Samy Inayeh. Editing: Aden Bahadori and Warren P. Sonoda.
Cast: Hector Echavarria, Al Sapienza, Keith Jardine, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt, Jordan Madley, Ashleigh Hubbard, Nicholas Campbell, Steven Yaffee.