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More Rocky III than Raging Bull, more Stir Crazy than Shawshank Redemption, the pugilists-in-prison flick Undisputed throws a flurry of tone-shifting punches in its visually frenzied 90 minutes—comedic jabs, violent haymakers, dramatic roundhouses—and most of them land loudly but clumsily. Still, for all the film’s glaring, blaring faults, it’s never dull. Director Walter (The Warriors, 48 Hrs.) Hill may be 60—and pretty much a tomato can when it comes to dialogue—but he still remembers a few things about crafting adrenalized stories involving swaggering antiheroes who can spar both physically and verbally. And with Ving Rhames and Wesley Snipes in his corner, Hill is lucky to have a pair of capable veterans who can back up their generic wisecracks with convincing body blows. Especially Rhames, who has way too much fun playing the Tysonesque George “Iceman” Chambers, a reigning champ who gets tossed into the Mojave Desert’s Sweetwater Prison—perhaps the most stylish clink in cinematic history—after a much-publicized rape charge. Displaying not an ounce of fear but gallons of testosterone, Chambers bare-knuckles his way through almost the entire population of convicts, more intent on proving his invincibility than his innocence. Inevitably, he’s matched up against Snipes’ Monroe Hutchen, a former boxing prodigy whose career was cut short when he killed the man he caught screwing his wife. Chiseled and glistening, all moody eyes and few words, Hutchen has been Sweetwater’s boxing champ 10 years running, and he’s yet to be seriously challenged. Hill never reveals whether the men are legally deserving of their fates behind bars—Chambers is the makeshift bad guy because he’s rich and cocky; Hutchen is the good guy because he makes pagodas out of toothpicks—and the director grazes the themes of redemption and honor before getting bored with the inane chitchat. All Hill—and the audience, which has little else to hope for—truly cares about is the war to settle the score. Inexplicably set inside a steel cage, the celebrity death match, set up by a thin subplot involving the Mob, is shot on myriad film stocks, in fast and slow motion, and with a full range of clever camera angles—all of which make the finale much more exciting than it should be. In trunks and gloves, Rhames and Snipes make for impressive gladiators, and I’m happy to report that there’s some real hitting going on there. It’s just too bad that fading star Hill stumbles whenever he roams outside the ring. —Sean Daly