Unleashed (2005)

by | Oct 11, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Unleashed  (2005)

Starring:  Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon
Studio:  Universal/ Rogue Pictures
Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Extras:  Previews (Cry Wolf, Carlito’s Way Rise To Power);
“Unleash Me” The RZA Music Video; “Atta Boy” Massive Attack Music
Video; Behind The Scenes (12 min); Serve No Master (10 min); Interview
with Director Louis Leterrier (5 min); Option to integrate extended
footage into the main part of the film.
Length:  102 minutes
Rating:  ***1/2 (for those who like overly violent martial arts
films and don’t require a believable plot for enjoyment), **1/2 (for
everyone else)

This film takes place in Glasgow and brings together an unlikely bunch
of characters.  The director tells us that he chose this location
because of its Gotham City feel.  In truth it does impart an
unusual and unknown environment as opposed to the typical locations
that are often used in films of this nature.  Li plays Danny the
dog—the alternate title for the film.  He is subjugated, lives in
a cage, and is forced to wear a collar.  From his early youth he
was instructed to use his vicious martial art skills to inflict brutal
displays of violence on others when they don’t pay Uncle (played by
Hoskins)—a small time crime boss—money owed to him.  At a point
when a man witnesses Danny’s skills in action, he invites Uncle to
bring him to a competition viewed by the rich where men (and women)
fight to the death while the onlookers wager on the outcome.  As
luck would have it, multiple attempts on Uncle’s life lead to Danny’s
fortuitous escape.  This puts him in touch with a blind piano
tuner who adopts him and for a time he lives with the tuner and his
adopted daughter. 

The story completely shifts and now Danny is treated with respect and
kindness—unfamiliar and unexpected.  Whereas before he would only
speak when spoken to, now he is more communicative in every way. 
He eventually removes the collar and starts to question who he
is.  But Uncle discovers his whereabouts and brings him back into
the criminal fold servicing him once again.  Danny does not have
the same spirit he had and only fights for survival.  In the end
he must confront Uncle, discover the truth about his mother, and decide
if freedom and the life he longs for is worth the fight.

This film made me uncomfortable and that is actually a good
thing.  Li and Hoskins’ depictions of their characters are quite
realistic and a bit terrifying.  The action scenes are
choreographed by the infamous Yuen Wo Ping (who worked on the Matrix
and Kill Bill films) and are very impressive.  Luc Besson wrote
the screenplay and the European director is no stranger to high-powered
action films.  In fact, you can see this in the visual style and
imagine how different this film would be if it were made in
America.  From a video and audio standpoint the film is first
rate.  As for the fight scenes, they are some of the most exciting
and “artful” melees that I’ve seen.  Morgan Freeman did a
competent job given the limitations of the role.  This is about
all the praise I have for the film. 

Although Condon shows talent she appears too old for her role. 
Also, she is super hyper and bounces around the set.  This may
have given her a youthful feeling for some, but it just made her seem
like she was on drugs.  Apart from the consistent brutality, the
film was lacking plot and believability.  Several friends and I
who watched the film for the first time found ourselves saying: “Why
did he do that?”  “How did that happen?”  “He’s still
alive!”  There were just too many holes throughout the film and
the transition from Danny’s criminal life made us wonder why the police
were never involved?  How did the character get medical attention
when he looked as if he was bleeding to death?  The repeated
unsuccessful attempts on Uncle’s life just seem too farfetched and
after that, the plot becomes quite predictable.  Often times
knowing what will happen is not necessarily a problem and how you get
there is what’s important.  In the case of this film, the answer
was with lots of violence.  There is no doubt that the film will
get you pumped up, but there is much more to good film-making than that.

-Brian Bloom

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