Boyka and the Undisputed Rise of Scott Adkins

Yuri Boyka is a modern fight film demigod and he’s coming back. Soon. In a recent post on the official Facebook page for Boyka: Undisputed IV, filmmaker Isaac Florentine and editor Irit Raz pose beside a still of the film, announcing the cutting is done and it’s moving into sound design.

Following a look back at the one that started it all, for this blog I’ve watched the second and third Undisputed films. They catapulted Scott Adkins from minor roles and stunt work to being the international B-movie phenomenon he is today. It’s here where his character Boyka uttered the phrase “I am the most complete fighter in the world”, which fans have oft since applied to Adkins himself.

Boyka’s debut came in 2006’s Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing. He was the main baddie and final fight opponent of George Chambers, played by great martial arts star Michael Jai White. As his biggest parts prior were on EastEnders and Hollyoaks, the world seemed to underestimate Adkins. Boyka is a fairly obnoxious, unsympathetic character in his first film, somewhat like Ving Rhames was in the first Undisputed. It seems like they weren’t planning on just how much fans would respond positively to his ways, and sequel plans – if they existed at all – certainly wouldn’t have included Boyka.

He’s a Russian gangster in prison for murder who has become an underworld kingpin through his amazing fighting ability. He rules the horrible Russian prison he lives in, treated well for fiercely cracking skulls – an entitled, privileged bully. But one whose incredible moves would endear him to anybody watching.

In their introductory scenes, Adkins is praying in a Siberian prison cell adorned with many religious images and photos of fighting men. He says “fuck” in his first sentence. Michael Jai White is first seen selling Russian vodka in a TV ad, and he says “fuck” as the first word of English he speaks . Shortly after this, a bible is revealed as one of his key possessions.

Adkins walks gallantly into a caged fight pit surrounded by cheerful prisoners cheering, some army officials in VIP seating and an announcer broadcasting to “selected establishments across Russia”, in English, for some reason. We see one such establishment, when a slimy mobster takes a burger from a small boy then gets female strippers to move off the stage as a curtain reveals a big screen for the fight.

Boyka/Adkins  immediately shows why he’s so loved, with an amazing fight that leaves his opponent awfully blood-splattered after a remarkable set of punches and kicks. This fight can be seen along with most of Boyka’s handiwork in several different YouTube videos, modern shrines to the glory of Adkins. Director Florentine puts great emphasis on all the hits in a way that many filmmakers edit around and censor. People may argue that with so much UFC on tap, what’s the point in watching this fake stuff in a movie? The grace and style with which these fights are put together can’t be emulated in a real-life sports match. Simple as that.

Chambers is framed for crimes he didn’t commit, specifically so he can be made to fight Boyka for the amusement and profits of mobsters. Dirty old Russia, eh? An American boxer down on his luck, things are about to go from bad to worse for Chambers. His manager is played by Sam Lerner,  the lovable chap Schwarzenegger stabs in the back with his own pen in the underrated The Running Man. He’s of no relation to Avi Lerner, a producer on the Undisputed franchise, the Adkins/Florentine Ninja franchise, the Expendables franchise and literally hundreds of other films – among them wonderful titles like Alien from LA, Terminator Woman, Mansquito, Cyborg Cop, Cyborg Soldier, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare and American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. What a guy.

Boyka and Chambers lock eyes as soon as he arrives at the prison, giving each other the eye and sneering with immediate contempt. They flirt and scrap several times in the lead-up to their final fight, White’s hip hop style slurs going up against Adkins’ Russian accented anger.

While Boyka is undoubtedly the facility’s alpha male and acts accordingly obnoxious, Chambers is also a bit of a diva and has an early run-in with prison authorities over the shower temperature. After further rebellious outbursts, Chambers is forced to shovel poo, suffer solitary confinement in the sewer and finally gets tied to a post in the snowy courtyard.

Boyka, meanwhile, says the best line in the film while working out – pointing to images of historical warriors on the walls, he proclaims them “Egyptians… Greeks… Asians”.  With all that working out it seems Mr Boyka hasn’t bothered much with geography.

It turns out there’s two final fights between Boyka and Chambers. They’re both thrilling to watch; the first sullied by a drugging incident, though, and the second ending with an almighty leg injury to Boyka, one that you’d think would put him out of commission for good. But no. This is Boyka.

Undisputed 3: Redemption is the best of the trilogy. The producers realised Adkins was their best asset and made him the lead, they realised acrobatic kicks look super cool and put mad emphasis on them, they made the minor fights leading up to the final one much more interesting, and they realised the appeal of man love – moving the homoeroticism of the series from being subtext to actual text.

The casting of Marco Zaror as Boyka’s principle opponent is also fantastic as he is almost as exciting to watch onscreen as Adkins is. He is an absolute delight to see fighting. He looks like he’s sped up all the time, with aerial movements that impress on a sort of Cirque du Soleil level. His character is shooting up some sort of drug all the time, but it’s genuinely hard to tell if the film is sped up in post-production or if he’s actually that quick.

We meet Adkins as the film starts with flowing long hair and a bushy beard – not his usual style. He’s mopping up sewage in the bowels of a prison and limping about miserably, a shadow of his former self. But only for a minute or so. He’s straight into training montages getting his leg back in shape, asking to fight again but not being allowed. Then not even ten minutes into the film, Adkins has shaved his hair and beard back to its Boyka style and has his demands to fight met. He goes up against a chap with a single plat hairdo named Sykov, the current champion, and wastes him in double time – earning the film’s subtitle just like that.

Redeemed, Boyka doesn’t win his freedom, however; he is instead sent from a horrible Russian prison to a horrible Georgian prison. Here, he’s put in a room with colour uniform coded prisoners from North Korea, Croatia, Greece, France, Russia, Brazil, the USA and Columbia. A mean Georgian prison guard-slash-mobster then growls that they’re creating “The first ever tournament of international prison fighters”. Mean!

This means there’s a lot of fights, exhibiting a lot of different fighting styles, in the lead-up to Adkins versus Zazor. It makes it more like Bloodsport than the previous films, which is fantastic.

After a long period of aggressive flirting and fighting, Boyka forges a beautiful relationship with an American fighter named Turbo. But rather than awkwardly avoid the issue, the filmmakers address it head on. Taking a break from bonding by smashing rocks with each other, at one point Turbo picks some pretty flowers and subtlety gives them to his sweetheart.

“Such perversions” are not allowed in the prison, Turbo is told by a nasty warden, and he is not happy about it. Boyka in turn is pissed when the guards describe Turbo as his “boyfriend”, and becomes enraged when poor old Turbo is beaten badly by them.

There’s other dialogue highlights such as Boyka being labelled champion of the toilets at one point and Jesus at another, and there’s also the word “fuck” said insanely frequently. There’s that lovely hyper-masculine feel permeating everything too.

Naturally, Boyka ultimately comes out on top after a stunning match against Zazor’s character in the finale. Part of his victory comes from buzzing out and remembering stuff while staring at a shit mop. He even ties the gross part to his injured knee and ultimately smashes his enemy’s knee even worse than his was. It’s a hilarious bit of CG but it’s still pretty dope.

If there’s one issue I have with the fight scenes, it’s that one chap always seems to be wasting the other. Even if it switches so the other then wastes him back, there’s very little even, back-and-forth action, but just one dominator. Still though, these fights are put to film in ways wildly superior to pretty much any other action flick.

Redemption ends with Boyka laughing, yelling for joy and running off into an urban area of Georgia with a suitcase full of cash. Who knows what troubles befall him, forcing him back into prison to fight in the upcoming film? Whatever the case, it’ll be sure to include a few hundred utterances of the word “fuck”, Adkins doing Guyver kicks and jump-punches and flips, knee trauma, religious imagery and homoeroticism. The cult of Adkins has developed since the last Undisputed film too and the producers will undoubtedly be wanting to up the ante.

Boyka: Undisputed IV is set for a release in the first half of 2016. I can’t bloody wait.