The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

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When last we left the Undisputed gang, they were in a Russian prison, and Michael Jai White had just busted Scott Adkins' knee to shit and won a big prison tournament. Now they're back, with Adkins reprising his role, and DTVC favorite Isaac Florentine (Ike-Flo to those in The Biz) taking the helm again as director. This could be good.

Undisputed III picks up where part 2 left off. Adkins is recovering from his bum knee, and trying to be the fighter he once was. He defeats his current prison's champ, and is entered into an international prison fighting tournament in Georgia-- not the Peach State, but the country. Anyway, when he gets there, he finds out things aren't kosher, as he and the other fighters are sent to do hard labor and other crap so they'll be less able to win and beat that prison's champ, some Colombian dude. Can Adkins overcome all this and win his freedom?

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This would've been so hot if they had focused more on the great Florentine fight scenes and less on the whole set-up of the prison and the plans to rig the tournament. Sweaty buff guys hitting rocks is great for a Pride Film, and I'm not knocking that as a genre at all, I'm just saying, we signed on for an action flick, and based on some of Florentine's other work, and what we got here when it happened, we know he can deliver. I mean, every fight scene was great-- the problem was, between the first round and second round in the tournament, there was this huge gap of blah. Fuck plot and character development-- or at the every least, mix it in with the action so there isn't a huge block of blah in the middle. Contrary to what the script writers may think, all that shit doesn't matter, it's the action that counts. If I want character development, I'll check out an Ozu film on Watch Instantly.

That being said, Scott Adkins is great again, and I liked his character here better than in Ninja, just because he wasn't running away from anyone. In fact, a huge improvement over Undisputed II was how little we had to endure Adkins's character being beaten up by guards and what not. I also understand that, he being the best fighter and star of the film, we don't want them to overdo it and have too much of him fighting. Fair enough, what we got was plenty and spectacular. I just wanted less boring plot and sweaty buff guys breaking rocks. Another great Isaac Florentine and Adkins pairing nonetheless.

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We have another Baller Blockin' alum, this time in Mykel Shannon Jenkins, the guy who played Garr in the Hip Hop classic. Here he was great, but didn't have anywhere near the material he had in his few short scenes in Baller Blockin'-- but who does. I think this is a good place to demonstrate why I might be hard on a film like Undisputed III. There's Baller Blockin', without a wasted minute of film (mostly because they probably decided making a movie was harder than they thought, so they gave up and slapped a "To be continued..." on the last scene), then I got this where I'm like "I thought this was an action flick". I watch DTV because I don't want character development, too much plot, etc. There are too many places I can go to if I want that sort of thing where they'll do it well. If you need character development, give it to me in an action filled flashback. If you need plot, give it to me in between explosions as the characters are escaping a shootout at an abandoned warehouse. Otherwise, don't waste my time. There's plenty of Godard on Watch Instantly.

An as far as being a DTV director goes, Florentine is really starting to make a name for himself and put together that résumé that earns one a spot in the DTVC Hall of Fame. Currently there's only one there right now for his directorial work, Albert Pyun, though Cirio H. Santiago will be in the 2010 class. Could Florentine be there in 2011? It's too soon to tell, but he's well on his way.

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I just saw a great film recently called North Face (Nordwand), which was about rock climbers in 1936 trying to conquer the infamous Eiger North Wall. In the review I gave on my Tumblr blog, I discussed how it was extremely scary, yet no one was tortured to death or had their eyeballs gouged out. Anyway, the other great element the film used was the juxtaposition between the climbers bivouacking in the freezing cold on the side of a mountain, while the onlookers partied away in the luxury hotel at the base. This film employed the same contrast, showing the crime bosses betting on the fights in this luxurious hotel in Tbilisi, while the fighters languished in the horrible prison. I don't know if Florentine or the script writers got the idea from Nordwand, but I couldn't help notice the similarities.

This is definitely a better film watched in a group so you and your friends can talk about other things during the blah parts, and then dig the too sweet fight scenes that really make the movie. Really, it's a four-star film that's twenty minutes too long, making it a solid three-star film, which in the end isn't that bad, is it?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1156466/

12 comments:

  1. You want a film with little plot and mostly action, look no further then Florentine's own Special Forces, that's one DTV film that should be required viewing for every DTV enthusiast out there, U.S. Seals II and Cold Harvest are pretty damn good as well, High Voltage is pretty average, though fortunately Tagawa and Sabato make it worth watching, Desert Kickboxer however is an unmitigated crapfest-though Florentine was just getting started with that film so I can easily forgive him for that one misstep. Also Florentine's next film-Blood Hostage will have not only Adkins but Vinnie Jones as well, dosen't get much better then that!

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  2. Believe it or not Special Forces is no as enjoyable as you would think. I personally preferred U.S Seals II. Special Forces was just you know didn' work for me. Cold Harvest was good. Don' remember Desert Kickboxer other than it not being very interesting and slow. I'm pretty sure such is so far the worst thing I've seen from Florentine...though The Fighter is terrible too. Despite my crush on Ashley Laurence.

    Undisputed III (You can review the first one as it made 12 Million and was a box office bomb, though I liked that one also)was good but I liked the other two better...the villain wasn't nearly as fun. Also because they focused so much on Adkins weaknesses it's sort of like how Kickboxer 3 was so in favor of Sasha Mitchell that the bad guy had to torture him and force training to weaken him. I fot one always like fighters to be even edged. Florentine did the same with Van Damme in Shepherd Border Patrol. Having one wonder if Florentine adds too much vulnerability to his protagonists. Especially since if you've ever had bad knees watch him do those kicks adds an element of wincing for one.

    Another thing is the whole "Redemption", this is more or less an observation that of all movies titled "Redemption" the majority of them made in the last 20 years (only exception the Tookie Williams bio and Shawshank Redemption) have to do with martial arts and such. Indeed a lot of times it makes little sense as Mark Dacascos didn't get redemption really in Kickboxer 5, nor did Don Wilson when he worked as a courier (he didn't even do anything really considered evil) and this one only slightly gets it right. Another use of Redemption is usually done in those spirtual movies that are about finding god. 24:Redemption is another one. It's just weird that redemption an act of freeing your soul and life from the burdens of sin and evil (I'm agnostic so bare with me) are all put in movies in which people shoot and fight it out for revenge.

    Indeed it's very strange that the title redemption would lead to

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  3. Yeah, who knows where we'll go next with Ike-Flo, but this definitely won't be his last film up here.

    Kickboxer V: Redemption should probably throw all rules for continuity and coherence out the window. First, Dacascos isn't a kickboxer. Second, who creates a kickboxing league and kills off anyone who won't join? What kind of business model is that? By the time we get to the end where we'd be like "hey, wasn't this about redemption?" we've kind of forgotten about it. The redemption isn't Dacascos', it's Geoff Meed's, the assassin that helps Dacascos. You're right, though, if Dacascos is the star, it should be associated with him.

    I think the Redemption in Redemption was Wilson saving the hooker after he got his partner and future wife, Rothrock, killed in the line of duty. Still a stretch, I know. I think what happens is the people come up with ideas for a title, but as the story gets fleshed out and the film is shot, what made it a redemption story is pushed to the background, but the title stays the same.

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  4. "If you need plot, give it to me in between explosions as the characters are escaping a shootout at an abandoned warehouse."

    Gold, and so true. I am looking forward to checking this out and probbaly at some point doing my own triple-feature review as I've not watched any of the Undisputed movies yet. This one has had so many positive reviews, with many people declaring it the best DTV movie in years.

    Have you seen the teaser promo for the new Mortal Kombat movie starring Michael Jai White? That could be fantastic if it continues like the promo.

    http://twitchfilm.net/news/2010/06/michael-jai-white-does-mortal-kombat.php

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  5. Dude, thanks for hooking me up with that link. First off, with Steve James, the man who Jax was modeled after, no longer with us, Michael Jai White is the next best thing, so I'm lovin' him in this. I don't know what to think of Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade, nor do I know what to make of real world versions of Baraka and Reptile, as opposed to ones from whatever planet they were on in the video game. It looks like it has potential though-- cheesy dialog, bloody special effects, and solid fighting. I'm ready to check it out.

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  6. Yeah i'm really looking forward to the new MK film as well, and i'm also excited about the Tekken and King Of Fighters film adaptions.

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  7. My only complaimt was how much of a tool both Baraka and Johnny Cage were. I mean seriously Johnny Cage is the man and they make him into a complete pushover. Then again I was a Johnny Cage fan in the game. I also liked Linden Ashby as such.

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  8. I loved in the first Mortal Kombat, the original one in the arcade, how you could punch off three heads with Johnny Cage if you held down, low punch, low kick, and block buttons all at once during the fatality. I know you could do it in the later ones too, but the first one was the best because it was a glitch.

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  9. Yeah, just finished up watching all three movies. There's a review up on my Collected Cinema page.

    They were all pretty good. Watched them all back to back to back so didn't mind the lulls between the fighting as much you. Agree that Adkins really nails this role, unlike Ninja.

    Now, hurry up and review US Seals 2. You're missing out on Florentine's masterpiece!

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  10. Do I need to see US Seals 1 first? And I did like this one, but those lulls really hurt it. I say this a lot, but it's really true: an action movie should flow like a musical, not like a dramatic piece. If there needs to be character development, use the action to tell it, not sweaty rock busting scenes.

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  11. No, US Seals 1 is okay but a rather routine Nu Image action films with a couple of gunfight scenes (very similar to the Operation Delta Force flicks and I think using a lot of the same actors as ODF3).

    US Seals 2 is completely unconnected (they really should have billed it a separate film). It's about a team of Navy Seals going to stop an evil madman on an island. It's pretty much non-stop fighting and some really bizarro plotting. Check it out.

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  12. I've had US Seals 2 in my Netflix Instant queue for a while now, so maybe in the next few weeks we'll get some room opened up for it.

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