Unleashed

"Very Good"

Unleashed Review


There is nothing that happens in Unleashed that cannot more or less be surmised from the film's trailer, yet the entertainment value of the film's 100 minutes is scarcely diminished. It is a high concept, yes (Jet Li as human attack dog), but Unleashed turns the simplicity and single-mindedness of such a concept into an asset; it is lean, exciting, and sweet, too, rivaling the better Jackie Chan pictures (both stateside and abroad).

It's about time; Jet Li has not had much luck in his American movies. He functioned all too easily as a simple variable in the formulas that were Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave; he was the innocent, honorable, kung fu master, mostly at the service of rappers. But his damaged character in Unleashed provides workable context for both Li's boyish reserve and his furious fists.

Li plays Danny, who has been raised as an animal by Bart (Bob Hoskins), a snarling cockney gangster. Specifically, Danny is employed as an attack dog; Bart has given him a metal collar, and taught him that when the collar comes off, it's time to maim at Bart's will. After a nasty accident sets Danny off on his own, he is cared for by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his teenage stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon), and he begins to enter civilization. Bart, who himself rather resembles an overgrown pug, is not one to leave well enough alone.

The author of this screenplay is part-time director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional), who maintains an intimate connection with his adolescent impulses - he writes movies that sound like something you might've dreamed up as an enthusiastic teenager with a taste for international junk food. I can't comment with much authority on how good the script for Unleashed is (except that it occasionally pushes the sentiment levels too hard, too soon), because the four primary actors give their characters such charm or, in the case of Hoskins, magnetically coarse bluster, that the story seems utterly plausible.

Director Louis Leterrier, whose usefulness as the "artistic director" of The Transporter seemed dubious (Cory Yuen co-directed, and handled that film's excellent fight scenes), here slows things down - during the film's middle section, I counted only one bone-crunching fight sequence - and lets Li, Freeman, and Condon gently bond. Freeman is as saintly a mentor as ever, but in this film's pulpy milieu, what could come off as a shopworn signifier of classiness is actually classy. The Transporter creative team might prime you for some fun trash, but Unleashed wants to keep its heart.

If there's a problem with this strategy, it's only that we're nevertheless pretty eager for the newly humane Danny to be thrown into a situation where he must, at least, use his awesome powers for self-defense. I also wondered, in a few idle moments, why Bart chose a dog as model for Danny's animal instincts; dogs often lack the ability to master not running headlong into moving cars, let alone martial arts (even the most physically adept movie dogs we've seen so far can't get much beyond wisecracking or playing some sort of sport). Danny is really more like an incredibly pissed-off kangaroo.

Despite the slight tug-of-war between the story's human side and the side in which Jet Li beats the crap out of about three dozen goons at once, Unleashed is the rare martial arts picture that feels like a whole. Not only are the fight scenes, especially the climactic ones, dazzling, but you actually care about the simple things - family and ice cream, mainly - that Li is fighting for.

The DVD includes a series of making-of featurettes and interviews.

Aka Danny the Dog.

Bow wow!



Unleashed

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th May 2005

Box Office USA: $24.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $50.9M

Budget: $45M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: EuropaCorp

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 85 Rotten: 45

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Danny, as Sam, as Bart, as Raffles, Dylan Brown as Lefty, as Georgie, as Distinguished Lady, as Wyeth, Carole Ann Wilson as Maddy, as Victoria, Mike Lambert as The Stranger, Puthirith Chou as Teen Danny, Jaclyn Tze Wey as Danny's Mother, as Floozy 1, Tony Theng as Little Danny, Owen Lay as Baby Danny, as Righty, Franck Xie Cheng as Baby Danny, Michael Webber as Boxing Boss, Danielle Louise Harley as Floozy 2, Affif Ben Badra as Tough man

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.