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Overall Rating
3.64

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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Unleashed
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by brianorndorf

"The bite is worse than his bark"
4 stars

Teaming up again with his most interesting producer, Luc Besson, “Unleashed” marks a change of action film pace for superstar Jet Li. While packed to the gills with punches, kicks, and assorted beatings, “Unleashed” is also an unexpectedly effective character piece, allowing Jet Li to accomplish the best performance of his English-language career.

In the malicious care of his “uncle” Bart (Bob Hoskins), orphan Danny (Jet Li) has been raised since he was a boy to become a lean killing machine, silenced only by a metal collar he wears around his neck. Once a simple loan shark enforcer, Danny is given a more formidable challenge when he becomes the darling of an underground fight network. When a twist of fate sets Danny free from Bart’s sadistic control, he finds relief from his violent world in the presence of a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) and his daughter (Kerry Condon, “Intermission”) who take the childlike Danny into their home and educate him in the ways of life and music. Danger comes when Bart wants his pet back, and threatens to destroy Danny’s new peaceful life to reclaim him.

In English-speaking roles, action superstar Jet Li has been teetering between two extremes of quality. On one side of the globe, Li has found big paychecks and fancy production flourishes with American products like “The One,” and his two Joel Silver collaborations, “Cradle 2 the Grave” and “Romeo Must Die.” Trouble is, those pictures were trainwrecks, overindulging in the worst American action film tendencies. However, when Li spends his time with French writer/producer Luc Besson (“Leon,” “La Femme Nikita”), the product is amazing, as seen in the dynamite 2001 free-for-all “Kiss of the Dragon.” Wisely, Li reteams with Besson for “Unleashed” (known internationally as “Danny the Dog”), and the result is another cinematic triumph for Besson, Li, and their distinctly European production team.

It doesn’t take a sharp eye to realize that Li and Besson are after a different type of action film with “Unleashed.” The picture is grounded in character, not set pieces or mystery, which allows a rare opportunity for the audience to become fully invested in the characters. The beauty of Besson’s action productions is that they are intensely ridiculous escapades, freely accepting their cartoonish nature and outlandish fight choreography, yet they seldom seem to succumb to the American need to pummel everything in their path. “Unleashed” has incredible moments of operatic, absurdist violence, but the film is never buried by it, and retains its core as a softer kaleidoscope of ass-kickery. When was the last time you saw a film that featured both the lilting power of classical music and a sledgehammer thrashing?

Choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping, the master behind “The Matrix” trilogy, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and the “Kill Bill” films, “Unleashed” is a marvel of aggression. While still clinging gently to the exhausted field of wire-fu, the picture makes up for it through its sheer brutality. To maintain Danny’s character arc, director Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter”) isn’t afraid to show his rough side, and Danny’s back alley combat sequences are a vicious spectacle. This is Li’s most alive work in years, as he demonstrates vividly just what type of brutal threat Danny is through fisticuffs, limb-snapping, and repetitive body blows. All this combines into Li’s wonderful performance, which manages to be both endearing and urine-loosening frightful. Li has a tendency to take stoic, poker-faced roles, but as the oddly innocent Danny, Li finds an opportunity to show another side of his personality. Playing befuddled is an admittedly easy way into sympathy, yet Li’s work isn’t simple; he has to weigh childlike curiosity with very adult rage, and he accomplishes this mixture expertly, and in a way he’s never shown onscreen before. Li’s skills deserve a film that takes him more seriously, and “Unleashed” is finally a production that fits him.

Of course, Li isn’t having as much fun as the rest of the cast, who are free to roam outrageously with their performances. Blustery and foaming, Bob Hoskins is the perfect foil for Li, playing a character who couldn’t outfight Danny, but can easily talk him into any situation. He’s terrific fun. On the other end of the spectrum is Danny’s adoptive family, warmly played by Kerry Condon and Morgan Freeman, who is having a blast playing up his character’s sunny disposition. If “Unleashed” wasn’t already a unique enough Jet Li feature film, the inclusion of these fine actors leaves no doubt about what type of experience Besson and Li were going after. I’m pleased to report that they’ve succeeded once again.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11680&reviewer=404
originally posted: 06/04/09 01:48:08
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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
6/20/08 PAUL SHORTT AN IRRITATING EXCUSE TO GLORIFY SENSELESS SLAUGHTER 1 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Aug-2005




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