Boyka: Undisputed (2016)

Posted in Reviews by - August 04, 2017
Boyka: Undisputed (2016)

The fourth and best film in the Undisputed franchise expands on the Boyka legend, and in doing so, highlights just how far these films have distanced themselves from Walter Hill’s original vision in 2002. Under Isaac Florentine’s guidance – himself a keen martial artist – not only has he created the first series of films to actively promote the sport of mixed martial arts (replacing the original boxing concept), but he has also provided British actor Scott Adkins with the most defining role of his career. His work as the conflicted Russian convict, Yuri Boyka – the “world’s most complete fighter” – established a change in tone and attitude for the franchise which really comes into its own in this blistering sequel. Here, Florentine acts as producer instead of director, but his fingerprints are all over the film. An opening voiceover sets up its redemptive tone, with Boyka asking, “I still don’t know what this life is for?” Now out of prison and hiding in Ukraine, Boyka finds himself on the cusp of legitimate MMA success, until he accidentally kills a guy in the ring and his life enters a tailspin. His devout religious beliefs send him on a quest for salvation, sneaking back into Russia on a fake passport to apologise personally to the widow of his deceased opponent. She’s a damsel in distress indebted to a creepy mob boss who runs his own underground fight club (obviously), so as recompense for his guilt, Boyka decides to work for the criminals as their star fighter in a bid to buy back her freedom. “Don’t you know a legend when he’s punching you in the face?” says kingpin Zourab (Alon Aboutboul), highlighting the high-esteem in which Boyka is held. And with just reason; Adkins is on remarkable form here in a series of highly visceral, acrobatic, breathtaking fight sequences which are as equally flamboyant as they are punishing. Credit should also go to Adkins’ long-time collaborator Tim Man, who appears briefly as one of Boyka’s many punching bags. Only an actor of Adkins’ experience and calibre could add such depth and conviction to a character which was initially conceived as a token supporting role in the second Undisputed film. It has been quite a journey, and on the strength of this, one that you would hope to see continue.

AKA: Boyka: Undisputed IV.

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