It’s February and everything sucks right now, so it’s time to unwind with February Fisticuffs – a punchy look at some of the best, worst and most average boxing, kung fu and martial arts movies.
Isaac Florentine’s Undisputed III: Redemption continues the surprisingly effective series with more blistering, no-nonsense ass-kickery. The 2010 follow-up to Undisputed II: Last Man Standing continues the way of things so far by making the villain of the previous picture into the protagonist. That’s a good thing because Boyka (Scott Adkins) is all sorts of awesome.
Undisputed III: Redemption features a screenplay by David N. White and cinematography by Ross W. Clarkson, while Larnell Stovall handles the fight choreography. The technical elements are on-point, as Clarkson knows exactly where to position the lens during many a barrage of martial arts goodness.
Fighter and goatee aficionado Boyka (Adkins) is a few years removed from his defeat at the hands of the Iceman in Undisputed II. He’s hobbled by a leg injury and cleans toilets in a Russian prison. Mob boss Gaga (Mark Ivanir) is still hard at work in the fight game, trying to make money out of a perfect illusion.
This leads to a tournament at the Gorgon prison in the Republic of Georgia, where fighters from around the world gather for the prize. Predictably, the prison is corrupt and the odds are stacked in the favour of Dolor (Marko Zaror). Boyka fights through the pain and makes friends with American boxer Turbo (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) on his way to…redemption. Or money. Probably money.
There is a pattern in the Undisputed series. In this movie, Turbo and Boyka forge a troubled respect that develops over time. Nothing is rushed and their friendship is believable as a sort of “odd couple” scenario, with the chastened but perennially pissed-off Boyka playing tough against the brash American.
If it feels like there’s a Chambers/Boyka vibe, there is. Adkins worked extremely well with Michael Jai White in Undisputed II: Last Man Standing and it’s clear that Florentine has some interest in exploring the mushrooming possibility of a bromance in his world of shirtless men beating the hell out of each other.
It seems only natural that the prison guards of Undisputed III: Redemption would waste little time in fashioning homophobic remarks. And there are some stimulating moments, like a scene in which Turbo gives Boyka a flower to help with his knee injury. It’s a rather fascinating moment in this man’s world, where there isn’t a woman in sight and displays of warmth are seen as weakness.
Undisputed III: Redemption speaks to the importance of companionship in the hermetically-sealed prison system, no matter where in the world it’s found. A scene in which Turbo looks for a place to go to the bathroom in a dreadfully small cell details the desperation even the toughest of men can feel when the walls are closing in.
The character of Boyka stands at the core of Undisputed III: Redemption. He is explored as a rather spiritual man, one who responds positively to the revelation of Turbo’s real name and one who quotes bible verses ahead of an ass-kicking. But his faith doesn’t seem to help him in the compassion department, as he keeps the world at arm’s length.
It goes without saying that the fight scenes are awesome. Once again, Adkins’ selection of punches, kicks, throws, and evasions make him a wonder to behold. There is pure artistry in his movements, in the way he connects a kick and reveals rare grace through an extra flourish at the end of a throw.
Undisputed III: Redemption is a great continuation of what’s turned out to be a fun series. It spends too much time outside of the fight game and some of the external stuff doesn’t play well, but there’s a lot to like in Florentine’s B-movie. And there’s something else: in a world of arrogant Alpha male bluster, Boyka is still king.