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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.42%
Worth A Look53.4%
Average: 9.71%
Pretty Bad: 6.8%
Total Crap: 10.68%

9 reviews, 49 user ratings

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by PaulBryant

"For the Dogs."
1 stars

Unleashed is an awful film. I’d like to think I could come up with a sentence which would yield more eloquence in describing a movie to you, however, my satisfaction with the accuracy it contains is sufficient enough for me to consider it the ideal means of assessment. The movie is awful.

Theoretically, if before walking down one of those well-worn movie theatre aisles you had told me I was about to see a movie starring not only Morgan Freeman, but Bob Hoskins as well, I would have been suitably excited. Granted, a slow twinge of doubt would have justifiably crept in when the name Jet Li was thrown into the fray, but seeing as the venerable still outweighed the pedestrian 2 to 1, it would have been in my best interest to gamble in favor of the film’s quality, right? Oh how wrong we can be.

Hoskins, in full-out Cockney splendor, is nicknamed, at least in terms of his leashed “nephew” Danny (played by Li), Uncle Bart, a man who has bred Danny like a dog (you’ll be hearing this dog metaphor a lot, trust me) and trained him to kill naughty blokes who don’t pay their debts. Hoskins and his gangster cronies seem to think that their characters will be endearing just by virtue of talking about how much they’d “love a pint” after suffering savage beatings, and wrongly assume their remorselessness will seem cute because they all appear to be having a “bloody good time”. Instead, their whimsical accents and attitudes make Unleashed’s paper-thin dialogue and asinine plot that much more unbearable.

First, a quick summation, for those who like this kind of flick: Li is a master-killer, who is only volatile, conveniently, when unleashed – I’m not kidding here, he has a leash around his neck, which becomes such a hammy device later in the film, I’ll be better tempered not to mention it again – and whispered to by Hoskins, who raised and imprisoned the young Chinese brute ever since he was a young boy. A picture book displaying a piano makes Li realize that there’s more to life than eating table scraps and scrapping with nogoodniks. Enter – from the favorite place for lousy writer: nowhere – blind piano-tuner Morgan Freeman, who teaches Li the beauty of dusty, out-of-tune pianos, and then takes the injured dog-man into his home. Add to this rather bland mixture a plucky young daughter, some Vaseline-lensed flashbacks, and you can pretty well guess the rest… Li is caught between his homicidal tendencies and the simple pleasures of a kissing and ice-cream.

A movie this predictable would have benefited from a hint of self-parody – something it is desperately without – as the achingly serious emotional scenes creep the story along until RZA’s blaring orchestration reminds us this is partly an action picture. Unless, that is, the Victoria character (Freeman’s daughter) was meant as humor – which I doubt was intentional. Containing just about every trait possible to qualify under the “cute/sweet” character checklist, Kerry Condon is a couple of pigtails away from being the most smackable movie creature I’ve seen in years. Of course, then you see Jet Li almost in tears reading from a script that actually uses the words “I want a piano” as a reoccurring motif, and the smackability-meter rises in his favor.

Seeing Morgan Freeman pop up in a movie like this is rather like seeing into your high-school valedictorian 20 years after graduation wearing a big orange jumpsuit picking up garbage with a pointy stick by the side of the highway. You both know he’s better than the work he’s doing, yet there’s nothing to do but try not to look directly at him, and pretend he’s just not there. Of course, Unleashed isn’t a portion of highway you can just whiz past in your car, it’s a movie. A movie you have to endure 100 minutes of, meaning Freeman’s face – shielded, at least, by dark glasses – is hard to avoid. Luckily those glasses never come off, and if you concentrate real hard, you can pretend there isn’t really an Oscar-winner up there.

The overwrought exuberance of Hoskins frothing villain (Sexy Beast anyone?), the all-knowing pretension of Freeman’s blind man (who, as per Hollywood usual, seems to be able to “see” so much more than the visually unimpaired), the unrealistic-to-the-point-of-absurd action sequences, are all compounded by the grating omnipresence of the musical score. The incessant roar of orchestration during the fight scenes melds, without pause, into the drippiness of the “human” story, creating a vast landscape of perpetual noise my ears could have done without.

Unleashed has approximately ten minutes, out of its total duration, which contain any redeeming features. Ten minutes is equal to one reel of film. In other words, the entire goodness of the movie could have been cut up, divvied out, scotch-taped back together onto a rusty spool and shown without too much embarrassment to its makers. However, instead of any sort of economic storytelling, the movie’s creators Frankenstein themselves a true monster of a movie – finishing at 100-minutes, sparing no digression, and torturing all those who come in contact with it.

This, it would be beneficial for director Louis Letterier to know, is why people make short films. Of course, when an idea as silly as the plot of Unleashed is protracted into a full-length feature, we can’t help but wonder whether a short film would have been a band-aid, or whether the better solution would have just been no film at all.

There must be some psychological reason behind why a man writes a screenplay, or directs a film. Beyond obvious monetary concerns, there must be a human urge or attainment he strives towards, and which only his cinematic creations can satisfy. I can only hope, sincerely, that Mr. Letterier is in no way pleased with anything about Unleashed except the large deposit into his savings account it will probably provide.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/14/05 07:03:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/02/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Jet Li shows amazing talent as both a fighter and an actor 5 stars
11/01/08 ldavies One of my favorite Jet Li performances 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
8/15/08 kariboo Jet Li did a wonderful job acting in this movie. He outshined even Morgan Freeman. 5 stars
2/03/07 AJ Muller Good story, great acting, kickass fights. Jet's best USA flick and #2 after Fist of Legend. 5 stars
10/16/06 anitamich Loved it, loved the acting........... I thought the violence and brutality was too heavy 4 stars
9/08/06 drydock54321 you gotta see him fight 4 stars
8/28/06 Kim Anderson Very Good Movie Action 4 stars
4/21/06 Movie Loon I couldn't disagree more with Paul Bryant's Review. I thought unleashed was a good movie 4 stars
4/02/06 Peter De La Rosa Jet can act.Great Cast.Action.Location.Li's best yet. 5 stars
3/17/06 chris f fantastic movie one of the best action movies of all time 5 stars
1/01/06 metalhead I thought it was a great film, I don't know why everyone hates it... 5 stars
12/23/05 Abraham Lincoln Great stuff. I enjoyed the movie, I'm no movie critic, just enjoyed it. :) 5 stars
12/12/05 gray why did this do so poorly? 4 stars
12/05/05 od no more screenplays for Besson to write 1 stars
11/28/05 ELI When Jet Li is the best actor in a movie that's a bad sign. Didn't know Morgan could SUCK 1 stars
11/25/05 CONSTANTINE AWSOME... Totally Bad-ASS Kung-Fu Fightin' Jet Li Film EVER! 5 stars
10/22/05 othree Great cast, action, simple movie that works, score could have been better 4 stars
10/13/05 John It has some nice moments and a good cast but it turns into predicatble fluff 3 stars
10/11/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, totally, totally AWESOME... BEST JET LI MOVIE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/04/05 Graham All the entertainment comes from how ridiculous the plot is and wondering how they dreamtit 1 stars
8/27/05 Rever_Bear-Trap BEST JET LI FILM TO DATE! 5 stars
8/11/05 ES A decent movie, you new going in it would be terrible of good, happy to say its a positive 4 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Definitely delivers, no more implausable than the typical martial arts film. 3 stars
6/21/05 Brock Stewart good surprised. The best jet li film 4 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands Typical Luc Besson fluff, with a wee bit more depth than usual, or ever. 4 stars
6/04/05 Hack-SAW ONE OF THE BEST ACTION FILMS OF 2005... A JET LI CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/03/05 Christy Schultz Gotta love Jet 4 stars
6/03/05 deadwiz One of Jet Li's best films. 4 stars
5/30/05 Joses Sweet ass-kickery. Doesn't need to be seen in theaters, though. 4 stars
5/26/05 ^ZuLu^ Jet Li's by no means a good actor. Others do good. Fighting is like in other movies. 3 stars
5/26/05 Cobretti Laughably bad sentimentality bookended by a ludicrous action story. Someone stop Besson. 2 stars
5/25/05 u4ea666 Awesome, love every jet li movie! 4 stars
5/23/05 Shao Fu Tzer People who didn't like this need mental help. 5 stars
5/19/05 jeff fun movie, good acting. 5 stars
5/18/05 jcjs fun, no brainer, excellent acting Bob, Morgan 4 stars
5/17/05 KingNeutron Liked it, but the ending was a bit strange. 3 stars
5/17/05 Captain Highcrime Yeah, pure popcorn storyline but Jet Li is absolutely adorable 4 stars
5/16/05 Bobbi good story, excellant acting, but paint by numbers plot, but somewhat enjoyable anyway 4 stars
5/15/05 average dude Chris Parry won't suspend his disbelief for action movies with Asian stars. 4 stars
5/15/05 Alberto Very kool, best Jet Li film ever! 5 stars
5/14/05 REDHT Jet Li kicks ass! 4 stars
5/14/05 Jet Li you sucks 5 stars
5/10/05 Josh You all mut be joking--or else you're industry shils. This sucked ass!! 1 stars
5/09/05 Andy Luca It is so cool, everyone should see it 5 stars
5/09/05 Julie Gastonar It is awesome, and show another aspect of martial art 5 stars
5/08/05 STAR LCGAP Unleashed is spectacular 5 stars
5/08/05 David Smith A little be cheesy, But it is a very good one. Li aimed for young audience to teach a lson 5 stars
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  13-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



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