Unrivaled [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (30th March 2010).
The Film

“Unrivaled” (2010)…

It’s an extremely fitting title, but more than likely not in the capacity that the filmmakers had intended. This movie is unquestionably, without a single doubt, unrivaled in its ability to completely suck. I mean, honestly, I’ve sat through some really atrocious stuff in my life. Films that took some serious intestinal fortitude to reach the end credits, but few have tested my mettle like this one. My brain is swirling with so many examples of awfulness that it’s a mad dash to spew out all the vitriol while it’s fresh. I was wincing in pain at the dialogue, cringing at the seen-it-a-thousand-and-one-times plot and exasperated when the bell rung on the final round. You would either have to be friends with someone involved with the production, or an insanely maniacal fan of MMA to be willing to put yourself through these grueling, 100-plus minutes of ineptitude.

Ringo Duran (Hector Echavarria) is a down-on-his-luck MMA fighter with a big heart, but he’s getting old and his tank is running low. However, an opportunity for him to prove himself arises when the undisputed champion of the top company, Christopher Holland (Rashad Evans), decides to pick an unknown fighter to go against him in his upcoming bout. Ringo doesn’t want to throw his name into the hat, but after the insistence of his girlfriend, Kara (Jordan Madley) and sidekick (of sorts), Link (Steven Yaffee), he ends up competing among the best the sport has to offer in an effort to finally realize his dreams. But there’s also the issue of $20,000 he owes the local mobster, Sergio (Al Sapienza), which might cost him his life before he gets to fight.

Let’s see: rough-and-tumble fighter with a big heart and lots of friends, big-time champion looking for some new action… can you say “Rocky” (1976)? Seriously, they managed to mold this film into “Rocky Balboa” (2006) meets “Gladiator” (1992, no not the Ridley Scott one). It’s one-part “man over the hill tries to realize his dreams” and one-part “man owes the mob”. Everything here has been seen countless times before, but what makes it even worse is that neither writer/director Warren P. Sonoda nor the film’s other two writers, one of which is the star, Hector Echavarria, even makes a feeble attempt to turn it into something minutely different. The opening of the film set the bar of mediocrity impossibly low, but it managed to only get worse from there. Ringo is competing in an underground fight when his opponent picks up a piece of the cage molding and uses it to pummel his face. Problem is, his face looks mangled one second and picture-perfect the next. When he finally steps out of the cage, he merely has a deep cut above his eye; the fight made it seem like he’d be lucky to even have that eye. There’s just no impact behind the fight scenes; they play out as well-choreographed stunts, nothing more.

The reason for that is most likely the fact that Ringo’s opponents are all stars of the MMA world: Rashad Evans, Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, Nate “The Great” Marquardt and Forrest Griffin. These guys are all top-ranked fighters who have appeared in numerous PPV events and on television shows… but they also need to stick with their day jobs. Now, I’m sure if was Sonoda’s reasoning that hiring famous fighters would not only give the film some marginal marquee value, but that it would elevate the intensity and realness of the fights. But they come across with an alarming sense of verisimilitude; they just look far too staged to be believable. These guys don’t choreograph moves in the ring; they step in and do whatever the fight calls for. Their movements feel unnatural in this reproduced environment.

There’s no one here you care to root for. Ringo doesn’t have the same “everyguy”, likeable persona that Rocky Balboa possesses. He’s just a sad sack, someone you feel pity for more than anything. He’s portrayed as a tragic figure who never took the time to chase his dreams because he was busying working hard to support his daughter. But there are just too many instances of him trying to spout off life lessons like an after-school special. His sidekick, Link, is a clichéd, lily-livered pansy with no fighting abilities whatsoever, but Ringo seems to keep him around for moral support. Everything Link says sounds so damn corny, though. And then you’ve got Al Sapienza as this stereotypical mobster who constantly compromises his own set of rules to give Ringo extra time to pay off his debt. It’s just so… ah, jeeze, screw it. I could go on and on about the shortcomings here. Nothing works. At all. And here I thought 100 minutes of Channing Tatum’s lifeless ass trudging through “Fighting” (2009) was bad. That film looks like “Rocky” compared to this. Stay far, far away.

Video

As I expected, since this is seemingly typical of horrendous films, the picture looks very good. I’ve found a negative correlation between a film’s quality and its visual imagery. Namely, the worse a movie is on Blu-ray, often the better the picture. Now, the 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image isn’t pristine, but it is rendered with far greater clarity and depth than this film has any right to. Colors look sharp, often popping off the screen, though that could be attributed to the fact that so much of this film is dark that the few colors we do see look radiant. The level of fine detail is the most impressive aspect of the presentation here – just have a look at the individual beads of sweat glistening on the fighters’ bodies during intense combat. A few shots had a hazy or out of focus appearance to them, but they were far and few between, not indicative of the overall image. The lighting, courtesy of cinematographer Sammy Inayeh, throws around some great contrasting shots. Too bad his talents were wasted on such a horrible film.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit also packs quite a wallop. This is a film full of crowd noise, entrance music and soundtrack cuts designed to take full effect through your home theater. Surrounds come to life most often at the times when we’re smack dab in the middle of the ring with two fighters, listening to the energy of the crowd. The LFE track bounds along thanks to some meaty cuts of bass supplied by the film’s constant stream of music, whether it be in a strip club or leading a fighter up to the ring. Even the punches absorbed by our fighters are felt from the confines of your couch. This is far more immersive than any PPV event I’ve listened to, that’s for sure.
Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, English and Spanish.

Extras

“Unrivaled” competes with a decent package of extras which include an audio commentary, featurettes, interviews, trailers and more.

The audio commentary with director Warren P. Sonoda and producer Sean Buckley is as bland as expected. The duo spends the majority of the time glad-handing the cast and crew on the “amazing job they did”. Sonoda talks some of his favorite moments in the film, such as the “lyrical quality” of Ringo being a down-and-out fighter, but having his trusty sidekick, Link, by his side. Yea, that’s some reeaaallll original stuff there, Warren. It’s precisely that kind of overwrought, forced emotion that helped make your film a piece of crap in the first place.

“Behind the Scenes of Unrivaled” (1080i) is a featurette which runs a whopping 2 minutes and 35 seconds. Director Warren P. Sonoda talks briefly about the script and choreographing some of the fight scenes. If only the movie itself were this short…

“Directing a Chase Scene on the Set of Unrivaled” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 2 minutes and 14 seconds. We are given a behind-the-camera look at the director shooting one of the many foot chase scenes contained within the film. Because, of course, seeing people running after each other is far more exciting than, oh, I don’t know, watching them shoot a fighting scene!

There are four interviews (1080i) available with the following more well-known cast members:

- Keith Jardine, runs for 3 minutes and 17 seconds.
- Rashad Evans, runs for 4 minutes and 16 seconds.
- Forrest Griffin, runs for 3 minutes and 23 seconds.
- Nate Marquardt, runs for 3 minutes and 13 seconds.

“Fight Choreography of Unrivaled” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 1 minute and 49 seconds. Blink and you’ll miss this short piece on stunt coordinator Eric Bryson talking about how he approaches the film’s fight scenes.

There are four "TapouT" promos (1080i) which run about a minute each. I fail to see why these are necessary considering the entire film was one long TapouT promo to begin with.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080i) runs for 1 minute and 43 seconds.

Finally, there are some bonus trailers (1080p) for the following Lionsgate titles:

- “Gamer” runs for 1 minute and 57 seconds.
- “The Condemned” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Hulk Vs. “ runs for 2 minutes and 11 seconds.
- “Lionsgate Blu-ray promo” runs for 57 seconds.

Overall

It was excruciating to sit through, but at least the Blu-ray release for this film sports a sharp picture coupled with some solid audio. The extras are only advised for those who really liked the film, or really like the fighters. Either way, I think you’d be best advised to steer far clear.

The Film: F Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C Overall: C-

 


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