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Directed by: Warren P. Sonoda
Produced by: BUCK Productions
Released by: E1 Entertainment
Written by: Hector Echavarria & Warren P. Sonoda
Rated: 18 (UK); R (US)
Running time: 104mins
DVD Release: March 15th, 2010 (UK)
Hector Echavarria – Ringo Duran
Steven Yaffee – Link
Nicholas Campbell – Raphael
Jordan Madley – Kara
Rashad Evans – Christopher Holland
Ashleigh Hubbard – Pepper
Al Sapienza – Sergio
Keith Jardine – Stone
Nate Marquardt – Luca ‘The Brute’ Popoff
Desmond Campbell – Popoff Coach
Tig Fong – Razer
Pedro Miguel Arce – Big Freddie
Monique Ganderton – Gracie Duran
Forrest Griffin – Landon ‘The Brither’ Popoff
The best fighter in the world works two jobs to make ends meet. The main problem? He’s unaware he’s the best. Ringo Duran, the son of Gracie Duran, a famous FEMALE kickboxer from Argentina, makes a couple of hundred bucks on the side fighting in amateur cage-fighting events. His passion; full-contact fighting. His goal: fulfil a lifelong dream of becoming a professional fighter. Ringo has put off attempts at a professional career for so long, he has started to feel the effects of age, but when the Maximum Cage Warrior (MCW) league, the largest and most famous full-contact fighting promotion in the world, announce a competition to select the best undiscovered fighter, Ringo’s friends urge him to join. Ringo, once again, claims he is not ready. Even Kara, Ringo’s love interest, pushes him to join, but Ringo resists. Will he achieve his life long dream and continue his mother’s legacy? Will he be the best fighter in the world?Will he remain Undiscovered?
This is the second MMA-inspired movie I’ve reviewed for Wrestling 101 in recent months and, unfortunately, the difference between the two is night and day. Blood & Bone was a phenomenal example of the genre and a showed us how to perfectly utilise real-life MMA fighters in a movie setting. Couple that with a great script, stunning choreography, camera work and character development for the main characters and you had a movie that was much more than the sum of its parts.
Unrivaled is almost the complete opposite of its sister flick. The acting is competent at best, the camera work is all over the place and has the feel of an ADHD-addled child at the helm (the cuts come so fast during the fights, you lose all sense of where you are) and no-one really gets anything to do other than bitch and moan.
The movie opens with a decent enough fight between our protagonist, Ringo Duran, and a heelish cheat played by Forrest Griffin. As I said, it’s a decent enough fight, but it’s also, unfortunately, as good as the movie gets. After losing the battle against the weapon-wielding Griffin, our “hero” goes to his day job as general dogsbody in a local bar. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for Ringo, but he’s got no-one to blame but himself for being where he is and the fact all he does is feel sorry for himself makes him unlikeable… which may have been a more apt title for the movie.
From there, an opportunity comes knocking in the form of Christopher Holland (Rashad Evans basically playing himself) and the Undiscovered reality show where the MCW organisation hope to discover an unknown and catapult him to the top. Of course, this is the opportunity Duran has been waiting for his whole adult life, so of course he’s going to leap at the chance to ta… what’s that? He decides not to go in for it? What a tosser. Add in the fact he’s already very well known on the fighting circuit (with both competitors AND the fans – he was a stand-out amateur champion) and it makes a mockery of the whole undiscovered part anyway.
You don’t need me to tell you that he eventually gets coerced (after some of the most ludicrously libido-killing sex you’ll see on screen this year) into training and taking part in the competition. You also don’t need me to tell you that he’ll face Rashad’s character in the final fight of the movie (after working his way through Nate Marquardt and Keith Jardine, playing the brother of Forrest Griffin and Ringo’s main rival respectively). It’s as formulaic as they come and while this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, it needs to be pulled off expertly to overcome the limitations and Unrivaled is unable to do that.
Throw in some unbelievably gratuitous female nudity, which does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do, a stupid Mafia sub-plot that resolves itself far too cleanly and characters you never really end up caring about and you have a waste 104mins of your time, not to mention a waste of the UFC talent (that includes uncredited appearances from BJ Penn, Lyoto Machida and Heath Herring).
This was a review copy, so there were no extras on the disc I watched and there’s nothing online to suggest any extras at this time.
This movie is frustrating on so many levels. Any film that can get away with casting Forrest Griffin and Nate Marquardt brothers isn’t going to be all bad, but that’s one highlight in a desert of miserable situations. The lead characters aren’t all that likeable, the villains are as two-dimension as you can get and the fights have so many quick cuts, you find it hard to follow the action.
After the stunning awesomeness of Blood & Bone, the bar had been set and this falls way, way short. In fact, Steve Austin’s Damage pisses all over this as well… and all the fights in that are basically the same. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this movie to you unless you absolutely have to have all films in the genre. Bad acting, bad script, bad direction and bad choreography all add up to a bad film.