Boyka: Undisputed (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Following the death of an opponent, Boyka questions why he is doing this sport and what he wants from it. As a means of atoning for the death, he goes to visit the deceased’s wife to try and help her as best he can to in turn be able to forgive himself.

Written by David N. White based on a story by Boaz Davidson and directed by Todor Chapkanov, Boyka: Undisputed is the 4th installment in the Undisputed franchise. White, Davidson, and Chapkanov create a decent follow-up to the other three and a fun 80’s-style action romp that takes a lot from the decade in terms of story-telling style, story elements, and look. The film is filled with fights in the ring, some punching out of bad guys outside of the ring, and even training sequences. It is clearly written to be a vehicule for star Scott Adkins and it’s a good thing too. The fight sequences use his capacities to their maximum potential with his signature moves being all over them and giving fans what they want. The film also has dramatic aspects that feel a bit dated, but work in context. It’s a big, visually loud, fight film that gives its audience exactly what they have been promised and what they look for in such a film.

In the titular part, Scott Adkins loses his usual British accent and goes for a Russian/Eastern-European one which he does decently. What he does best though are the fights. This film was written for him and it shows. He gets to fight some serious opponents and use what he can do to the delight of action and fight fans. As for his acting, it’s good. Action stars are often given a bad rap, but he does well with the more dramatic scenes, showing some evolution from some of his earlier work. It’s not an Oscar or BAFTA performance, but it’s decent and takes the viewer into the film further than just wanting to watch the action. Adkins is charismatic and capable of using his acting chops when necessary. Here he shows a good range and that he can handle drama as well as violence, switching back and forth between the two with ease. Playing the dead fighter’s wife Alma, actress Teodora Duhovnikova shows that she has the capacity for such parts, showing the grief and sadness of Alma in a way that works with the film’s general vibe. The cast of bad guys is serviceable in general with a couple who are not as good, but still not grating so they are easily passed on as fodder for the fights.

As credit must be given when it is due, fight choreographer Tim Man does great work here with these fights that involved 2 or more men. He even avoids some of the usual action film clichés such as when multiple attackers seemingly wait their turns to rush the hero, giving him ample time to fight and defeat them one by one. Here the fights with more than one opponents are a case of them attacking together in a nicely choreographed way, giving the hero more to deal with but also a chance to showcase what he can do in a more complex and full way.

Boyka: Undisputed is one of those action films that is fun to watch and offers not just well-choreographed fights, but also some decent drama to surround those fights. The acting is good, the fighting spectacular. Fans of Scott Adkins should love it as he gives his all and uses those signature moves they have come to know and love. The film feels like an 80’s films but it’s not a bad thing here as it’s not desperately trying to reproduce the era, but just happens to have the feel of it by developing its story and peppering it with fights in just the right amounts. Time is not wasted much on character development, but it works as Boyke was in the third installment of the franchise, this being his second outing. It’s fun, it’s violent, it’s should be seen on a big screen with a receptive crowd if possible.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.