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Featured DVD Review: Unrivaled

March 13th, 2010

Unrivaled - DVD or Blu-ray

Written by and starring Hector Echavarria, Unrivaled is the latest in a series of MMA films that can make that claim. However, since his previous films include direct-to-DVD releases like Never Surrender and Death Warrior, this is not a huge selling point. Will this film rise above those films?

Hector Echavarria stars as Ringo Duran, the son of Gracie Duran, a female kickboxing champion from Argentina. Despite having the genes, he's never amounted to much in the ring and works as a bartender at a strip club between bouts in underground fights. He is in need of a lot of money, fast, because he owes a crime boss, Sergio Ponzo, $20,000 to cover gambling debts. With no way to pay, his friend, Link, signs him up for a tournament held by Maximum Cage Warriors. The winner gets a chance at a championship match against the current champ, Christopher "The Pressure" Holland, $100,000 to the victor. Now he has to train as hard as he has ever trained in the past. (We're going to need a montage). But with the current champion, willing to play dirty to make sure he loses, it will take more than a training montage (Montage!) for him to get to the top.

This is not an original story. Not even close. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be a bad movie. After all, all these movies need to be successful are two things: a lot of action scenes and enough plot to string the fights together into a cohesive movie. The second part is more or less optional. But in this case, the plot actually hurts the movie. At one point, the current champion and the crime boss conspire to fix Ringo's opening fight so that he loses. The crime boss bets $100,000 on the outcome. Really? He's a 25:1 underdog, so even betting $100,000 would only net you about $4000 in winnings (minus the house's cut). That's not a serious way to make cash. And it was never explained why Christopher Holland didn't want to fight Ringo. So the plot is actually a distraction from the action. But does the action hold up? Not really. At best the action is merely average and there's not much that makes it stand out. There are a lot of fights (about seven in total) so there's a lot of action, but it is definitely a case of quantity over quality.

There were some perks in the movie, including the performance by Nicholas Campbell as Ringo's coach, Raphael. Also, Anna Cyzon has a fun bit part as the sports announcer that has to put up with her idiot co-host, Jim Annan.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the director, Warren P. Sonoda, and one of the producers, Sean Buckley. The commentary has a good balance of energy and information, with few dead zones. It might be a little too easy with the praise, but I won't hold that against them. The rest of the extras are rather short, starting with a two-and-a-half minute long behind-the-scenes look, a two-minute look at the making of the chase scene, four interviews with a total running time of 14 minutes, and finally a 2-minute look at the fight choreography. Again, like the fights in the movie, there are a lot of extras, but it is another case of quantity over quality.

I don't have the Blu-ray, but it doesn't appear to have any additional extras. Then again, it costs the same amount on Amazon.com, so that's not an issue.

The Verdict

Unrivaled is your typical MMA action film: filled with fights, cliches, and stiff acting. (Actually, with Nicholas Campbell in the cast, the acting is better than expected, but only when he is on the screen.) It more or less lives up to low expectations, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. Extras on both the DVD and the Blu-ray are also in line with expectations, but this is not enough to lift the film past the rental level. And it is only worth a rental for those who are big enough fans of MMA.


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