Wesley Snipes hits the mat

What happened to Wesley Snipes? We know he’s no A-list actor, more a stand-in for roles turned down by Denzel Washington, but in his new movie Undisputed, Snipes (Blade and Blade II) sinks to new lows delivering a painfully contrived performance. This is not the Snipes we saw in New Jack City or White Men Can’t Jump but rather a pale imitator.

In Undisputed, Snipes plays Monroe Hutchen, a rising boxing star convicted of murder. Hutchen winds up in Sweetwater Prison where he meets Ving Rhames’s character, George “Iceman” Chambers. Chambers is a world championship boxer serving a prison sentence for rape. Despite this somewhat shady introduction, the character ends up endearing himself to the audience with a convincing appeal of his innocence, as he first speaks with Hutchen (reminiscent of Mike Tyson) – “I ain’t no punkass rapist.”

As if the audience has not had enough outrageous coincidence, along comes another inmate Mr. Ripstein, played by Peter Falk. Ripstein just happens to be a boxing promoter and has a “friend” on the board of corrections who can get Chambers out of prison if he fights Hutchen in the prison boxing ring. Thus, fight gamblers from all over the country attend the prison fight, as they transform Sweetwater into a professional boxing venue.

The plot development may be painful to watch, but it is the acting that really sinks this movie. After exceptional performances in Pulp Fiction and Rosewood, Rhames shows that even the best actors have a few lemons in them. He’s not awful in the film, but he is capable of much more.

The only thing Snipes offers is cheap one-liners aimed at quick laughs in an attempt to mask the film’s lack of plot, intelligence and creativity.

The two main characters duke it out in the final scene. As the fight begins, one inmate convicted of murder proudly proclaims, “it was worth going to jail to see a fight like this.” The whole prison roots for Hutchen. Even the prison skinheads join in and shed their racial animosity to create prison solidarity against champion Chambers.

Despite the fact that the whole movie builds for this fight, WWE’s Smackdown looks more realistic. In the battle the actors do seem to get hurt, but to the audience it just looks ridiculous. It is apparent that some of the punches and jabs are simply not connecting.

The final fight certainly carries no climax, because the audience does not know either of the main characters. It is impossible to know who to cheer for because both characters are so underdeveloped.

The only triumph this movie provides is the closing credits after a mere 90 minutes. By the end of the movie the only fight there should be is between you and the box-office as you try to get your money back. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this film is not meant to be cinematic brilliance, but unlike Van Deisals’ XXX the action scenes alone simply do not carry the weight of the movie.

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