Sunday, October 14, 2012



I just got back from seeing the new Jet Li movie Unleashed and I have to say that I'm totally blown away! Not only is this film filled with amazingly choreographed and brutal fight scenes, but it has great characters that are developed to the point where you care if they live or die (and in some cases feel sorry for how pathetic they are) and it has a fully fleshed out plot that is entertaining and emotional in all the right places. Sure the movie is cheesy, with hokey dialogue and some corny situations, but director Louis Leterrier pulls it off without a hitch.
Danny (Li) was raised to think he's an attack dog since he was a child by the sadistic loan shark Bart (a great, over-the-top Bob Hoskins), and once his collar is removed he strikes without a hint of remorse or conscience. He just kills (in spectacular fashion I might add). Bart is (supposedly) killed in a car wreck and Danny is left to fend for himself on the streets of London. He befriends a blind piano tuner (a wonderfully understated performance by Morgan Freeman) and his step-daughter (Kerry Condon) and they take him in. After months of living like a normal human being he accepts that he is a real person until Bart comes looking for his dog. Danny must make a choice, return to a life as a dog which he is familiar with or stay with these strangers who have come to think of him as a part of their family.

It is all laid out at a fantastic pace and if it weren't for the performances by all the leads this film might not have turned out as great as it did. Jet Li gives the performance of his career (looks like he's taking acting seriously after his stand-out performance in Hero) and is convincing in every respect even though he barely has any dialogue. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. The guy can do no wrong and slides effortlessly into his role as the father figure. Kerry Condon is cute in a pixie sort of way, but she is kind of hyper. It works because she's a nice contrast to the mellow, quiet characters she plays against during the film. Bob Hoskins (who I haven't seen in a film in YEARS) chews the scenery in a way that I haven't seen since Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II. He dominates every scene he's in and adds some subtle layers to his despicable character that I didn't expect.
Visually the movie is stunning. Every shot was interesting to look at and there are some fantastically creative camera moves on display here. It adds to the unpredictable feel the movie seems to be going for. It works.

Writer Luc Besson penned a real winner here. He gives the drama crowd exactly what they'd want to see and the action crowd what they'd want to see. It's the first action film I've seen in a long time that's just as good in the plot department as it is in the action department. I give total props to director Louis Leterrier. I've never heard of him before, but I hope he keeps on making movies. If they're half as good as this flick was I'd pay to see every one of them.
The fights are astounding. If there was wire-work I couldn't tell. The acrobatic fights were some of the nastiest and most brutal I've ever seen. A mix of kung-fu and street brawling, it's really bad-ass to see in motion. One fight in particular toward the end involving a pit fight and sledgehammers made me cringe more than once due to its violence.

If you expect to see a stereotypical action film that's all ass kicking and no plot, then go see XXX: State of the Union. If you want an emotionally gripping, well acted and entertaining action film, buy your tickets for this NOW!

4.5 out of 5

*written 5/13/05

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