Ving Rhames plays former undisputed Heavyweight Champion James "Ice Man" Chambers, convicted of rape and stripped of his title and sentenced to serve his time in Sweetwater. While there he learns that Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes) is the "undisputed" champ at Sweetwater, and he has been undefeated champion for ten years. For the Ice Man, there can be only one champion, and that would be himself. It is predictable that the two will fight at the end, and this is arranged by mobster inmate Mendy Ripstein (a very good Peter Falk). What is not predicable is that Giler and Hill make both Ice Man and Monroe admirable and fascinating characters. You have to credit Rhames and Snipes. Rhames takes what could have been a Mike Tyson caricature, and transformed him into a complex and empathic character. His Ice Man is vicious, crude, arrogant, but also both smart and articulate. Credit Rhames on several occasions for scaring us with the ruthlessness of his Ice Man, and for also surprising us with his understanding of his stature in life as a Heavyweight champion. Ice Man is definitely the more showy character. Snipes underplays it right as Monroe, a great foil to the Ice Man. Snipes's Monroe is not afraid. Monroe knows that "Any fighter can be beat on a given day...", and the game is how long you stay on top and be the best. Monroe is matter of fact, and always in control-- the last time he wasn't got him in prison. Ice and Monroe are both convicts that operate by a code of honor, and that makes all the difference in the movie. It's all about standing your ground, and whoever wins, wins. "Undisputed" also is an homage to boxing and it's history, because ultimately it is about two men seeing who is better on that particular day. There is something pure and whole about that, which is both appreciated and respected.
The final boxing match is awesome. Snipes is an accomplished martial artist and he trained with Emmanuel Stewart. Snipes looks amazing as a boxer-- body movement and combinations. Rhames also looks very impressive and fearsome. It's a 15 minute fight in a 90 minute movie. Walter Hill is the Man.
"Undisputed" is a no nonsense boxing movie that entertains and makes us think. And that is not bad for a very unpretentious movie.