The award-winning Undisputed franchise is coming to television as of Thursday’s exclusive out of Cannes from Alex Ritman at THR. The martial arts action franchise is currently selling at the market for London-based Empire Films, the company now behind its small-screen reboot alongside Millenium Films.
Walter Hill’s inaugural 2002 film, Undisputed, had Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames starring as Munroe Hutchen and George Chambers, boxing champions in their own worlds who find themselves rivaling behind bars. Though the film bombed, further franchise fruition grew under the auspices of Nu Image and Millenium Films with famed action director Isaac Florentine taking the mantle for the next two installments, Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing and Undisputed 3: Redemption.
Actor and martial arts star Michael Jai White took on the Chambers role opposite Scott Adkins for part two, segueing from the original film’s boxing millieu into a more popular and suited MMA format. The franchise ultimately drew further cult status for Adkins who portrays Uri Boyka, a notorious mixed martial artist champion self-imbued as “the most complete fighter in the world” who finds an underdog calling as the starring lead for Undisputed 3: Redemption, and Todor Chapkanov’s Boyka: Undisputed which Florentine produced.
Florentine, who just wrapped up Adkins headliner, Seized, and will direct the British martial arts star for Strapped, will also be on board for the Undisputed TV series for its Bulgaria shoot next year at NuBoyana Studios. It is not known yet if Adkins will reprise the role but the show will see the former Russian prison convict immersed in New York city’s opulent world of international underground fight tournaments.
Undisputed, which aims to continue the journeys of the characters from the film franchise, will centrally see Boyka now on parole and seizing the opportunity to participate in the world’s biggest and most prestigious underground fighting tournament. Exposing the lucrative and intricate underbelly of fighting rings, the new series will reveal the microcosm of an expansionist international crime organization and connects everyone in it; those who participate in it, organize it, protect it, investigate it and collect the money. This is a world where every action has consequences.
Yariv Lerner (Hellboy, The Expendables, Rambo), Rouslan Ovtcharoff (The Expendables, The Mechanic, Criminal) and Benjamin Jackendoff (Black Eyed Peas Present: Masters of the Sun: The Zombie Chronicles), are executive producing the srries with Empire’s Sean O’Kelly (Gun Shy, Damascus Cover, Iron Sky) and Marc Bikindou (Breaking Point, Den of Lions, Swelter) producing.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of buzz and presales interest around Undisputed the TV series, with buyers quick to recognize its broad commercial appeal,” said O’Kelly. “As one of the most original and talented directors working today, Isaac Florentine will be sure to deliver the same riveting, high-octane action experience that Undisputed fans around the world have come to love and expect.”
“I am hoping that the mainstream American audience will finally discover the character of Yuri Boyka and like him the way he’s adored in the rest of the world,” said Florentine.
Added Lerner: “NuBoyana studios was the home for all the Undisputed movies and we are excited to offer the same unparalleled production value to the series.”
Considering the environment we’ve been in now with martial arts-themed serial dramas like Into The Badlands, Kingdom and Warrior along with upcoming shows such as Netflix’s Wu Assassins and CW Seed’s Warigami, it feels like Undisputed finally found its calling. All the films are a blast while efforts to keep the actual movie franchise going have been a pure challenge to overcome as rampant piracy kept stifling the budgeting prospects and pacing of the films.
Plus, a TV series format could definitely allow more room to explore the films’ characters. We never did see Chambers return like he said he would in the second film, and it would be interesting to see what Hutchen is up to.
Get ready fans, Undisputed is coming to TV!
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