Ringo Duran is in over his head. Duran (played by the movie’s co-screenwriter Hector Echavarria, who also co-authored Never Surrender) is a has-been amateur fighter who gets an opportunity to compete in a four-man tournament to decide the next number one contender for MCW champion Chris “The Pressure” Holland (Rashad Evans). A victory would mean the ability to pay off his loan shark and live up to the memory of his mother, a five-time kickboxing champion. It’s a stereotypical Hollywood fight story with a semi-modern twist that comes across as mix of a b-grade MMA version of 8 Mile and a two-hour TapouT infomercial.
Unrivaled doesn’t start with Duran puking up his spaghetti dinner in the bathroom; instead he gets his butt kicked by the weapon-using Luca “The Brute” (Nate Marquardt) in a cage somewhere in the basement of a New Jersey shoe store. Later that night, the veteran bolts to his bartender job at a strip club where he gets beaten yet up again, this time by the loan shark Sergio (Al Sapienza) and his goons for being late on a $20,000 debt. Love interest and fellow bartender Kara (Jordan Madley) makes the save by beating up the henchmen, forcing the wanna-be mafia boss to give the injured fighter, a sufferer of what is apparently chronic arm dislocation syndrome, one month to pay up.
Instead of further building the storyline, the next several scenes mainly contain shots of Duran training, working at the bar, laying pipe to his “tougher-than-him” girlfriend and random girls stripping at the club a la HBO’s G-String Divas. Later in the movie, the vet’s happy-go-lucky buddy enters Duran, unbeknownst to him, in the MCW four-man tournament via email for a chance to win $100,000 and a title shot against Holland. Although he is very upset at first, Duran nevertheless prepares for upcoming fights against Gregor Popoff (Forrest Griffin) and former training partner Alonso Scott (Keith Jardine). However, Sergio is conspiring with the two and the champ to prevent Duran from winning the tournament.
While the fighters and Madley execute their roles well, Echavarria looks like he has the life sucked out of him – even when he isn’t on the receiving end of an ass whoopin’. At times, it also feels like some of the minor characters are forcing out their lines, wishing they were somewhere other than a movie set. Fanboys and girls who love staring at fighters’ physiques will thoroughly enjoy Unrivaled, but the female demographic as a whole will dislike it with a vengeance. Most of the women are strippers flaunting their bodies, the goofy MCW male broadcast announcer portrays his smarter female counterpart as a stereotypical dumb blonde for cheap laughs, and perhaps the most intelligent character of all, Kara, has her role diminished from a wisdom rich love interest to a lost puppy following her owner around.
Other than a few cool scenes, like a big chase throughout the city that ends in tragedy and Duran taping a picture of his mother on his hand before putting on a pair of five-ounce gloves, Unrivaled leaves a lot to be desired. Sub-plots are practically non-existent and the camera angles used during the fight scenes don’t always offer the best views – though the action is memorable nonetheless. It’s no Rocky, but there’s enough fighting and naked chicks in Unrivaled to keep you entertained for a few hours before the pay per view starts.