I'm a big fan of
actor/writer/comedian John Leguizamo. His stand-up comedy always keeps me in
stitches, and he's a much stronger dramatic performer than he is given credit
for. Fair enough, The Pest was a smoldering pantload and virtually
anyone would not come off well if they found themselves stuck in Super Mario
Brothers or Spawn. Yet he's done fine work in Summer of
Sam, Carlito's Way, Romeo and Juliet, and was one of the
few positive elements I could stomach throughout the vile Moulin Rouge
, Leguizamo gets to exercise
his talents as not only a dramatic performer but also as a director (he
also has a story credit on the film.) The HBO telefilm deals with the story of
Lex Vargas, an up-and-coming boxer whose dreams involve glory in the ring as
well eventually escaping the everyday confines of his Queens neighborhood. He
works in a local grocery run by his older brother Chewey (Adrian Martinez), who
warns the young fighter that people only pay Latinos to "watch them beat the
crap out of each other." Tragedy strikes early on in the film when Chewey is
shot and killed during an attempted robbery. Devastated by the loss, Lex
suddenly finds himself unencumbered by what has always been his moral
foundation. Encouraged by his boyhood friend and manager Loco (Clifton Collins
Jr.), he begins training and earnest and soon finds himself at the top of his
game. The accoutrements soon follow: he's making copious amounts of dough, lives
in a big beautiful house, walks around with an entourage, and wins the
affections of the smokingly-fine Lizette (Vanessa Ferlito), seemingly the girl
of his dreams. Lex's success seems to have no limit, but in the process he
begins to lose everything: his relationship with his buddies,
his girlfriend, his self-respect, and even the
honor of his brother's memory.
I tried to enjoy
, but the film suffers terribly
due to some rather clunky dialogue and clichéd
situations. The cast is uniformly solid: Leguizamo does give a fine
performance, and I was especially impressed by the work of Clifton Collins Jr.
and Vanessa Ferlito. The fact that Ms. Ferlito spends a good deal of the film
topless was not lost upon this reviewer. Leguizamo's direction, in comparison,
seemed slightly lacking and uneven. The film generally felt somewhat flat
and lifeless -- even the boxing scenes seemed unconvincing. What we are left
with is an earnestly acted but unfortunately weak and predictable film that, in
the end, treads no
new ground or provides any genuine insight
or truly developed characters. Disappointing.
Undefeatedis presented in a
ratio of 1.78:1, and has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing
hipness. This is a smart looking transfer. Image detail is sharp and well-defined.
Colors are rich and sufficiently deep and varied, with excellent blacks and spot-on
contrasts. There's a slight lack of shadow delineation that make some of
the darker scenes seem a little weaker in comparison. The transfer is reasonably
clean, with nary any print wear, noise, or compression artifacts to be found. I
noticed some edge-enhancement but nothing overly detrimental.
The audio is presented in both
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks. There are optional French and Spanish
language tracks as well. The 5.1 track isn't too expansive but serves the
production moderately well.
Fronts provided some nice separation, and
surrounds effectively opened the soundstage well to provide reasonable background, crowd, and ambient noise.
My only complaint would lie in the slight underpowering
the center channel. Dialog
seems a little on the low-end and sometimes comes across as unintelligible.
This was rectified by eschewing the 5.1 track entirely
and listen to the 2.0, which seemed more balanced and natural-sounding.
It's not as sonically engaging as the 5.1, but it's the superior
of the two.
Leguizamo provides a feature-length audio commentary, and is an
engaging and enthusiastic speaker throughout. He obviously poured a lot of heart
into the film, and affably speaks at length about the history of the production,
the cast, and his approach to bring the story to screen. Also included is a
Spanish-language interview with John Leguizamo. Running just
over three minutes, the interview makes for a nice addition but provides only
some basic background information about the film. Barely more substantial is a
behind-the-scenes featurette that is your basic EPK piece. Most
of the information contained in both the featurette and the interview are
contained in the commentary, so those looking for deeper insights should stick
with that track. Rounding out the supplements is a promo
for other HBO films.
disappointing film. I was hoping for a film that wouldn't devolve into many of
the same stock situations in both boxing films and "local boy from small
town/ghetto/underprivileged family makes good but completely forgets his roots"
movies. For his next project, I hope John Leguizamo picks something with a
stronger script and more clearly delineated characters. Still, while the movie
is a bust the DVD looks fairly good and comes with some decent supplements. Fans
of the movie might want to give this disc a whirl, but otherwise you can
give this disc a