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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 EricDSnider

"Well, at least he's housebroken."
4 stars

Rarely have the opposing flavors of graphic violence and human kindness been as oddly combined as they are in "Unleashed." It's a martial-arts movie about a brutal killer, but hey! It's also a sweet story of redemption and growth. The aforementioned killer has a character arc, developing and changing over the course of the movie -- something few fight-and-kick movies ever bother with.

It is the curious story of Danny (Jet Li), a man trained since childhood to be the property of one Bart (Bob Hoskins), a ruthless Glasgow gangster and loan shark. Danny is treated like a dog (the overseas title of the film is "Danny the Dog"), kept in a below-ground cage and rarely spoken to. While collared, he is docile. When the collar is removed and the order given to kill, he is a seemingly unstoppable killing machine, beating his victims to death with his own hands and feet.

The film is 20 minutes old before Danny says a word, and then it is because, during a rare moment when he is not in the company of his master, he is asked a question by a blind piano-tuner (a character description that feels like a cliché even if it's the first time a movie has used it). The blind man, Sam (Morgan Freeman), doesn't know what Danny does for a living, of course, nor that he has been brainwashed and abused so thoroughly that even now, when Bart is out of earshot, he makes no attempt to escape.

Escape is eventually thrust upon him, however, when Bart is seemingly killed in a car accident from which Danny walks away. Sam being the only person he's ever met separate from his work for Bart, he seeks him out and is taken into the home he shares with his stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). There they teach Danny how to be human, how to trust people, and how to play the piano -- three essential goals for any person.

The violence in the first part of the film, detailing Danny's duties for Bart, is relentless and bone-crushing, matched in tone by cinematographer Pierre Morel's shooting everything in overcast, muted colors. The palette brightens when Danny enters Sam's world, and darkens again when Danny's former life invades his tranquil new existence.

The director is Louis Leterrier (Louis the Terrier?!), who previously gave us the nonstop parade of crunchy action known as "The Transporter." Here, reunited with "Transporter" screenwriter Luc Besson, he seems just as comfortable with the fast-paced, thrillingly choreographed fights as he is with the more tender, humanistic moments between Danny, Sam and Victoria.

Jet Li is no Morgan Freeman in the acting department, but he does surprisingly well opposite the Oscar-winner. Together, they bring conviction and gravity to the freak-show pairing of a human attack-dog and a blind piano-tuner, making them each as real as can be expected. (Alas, a subplot in which a romance between Danny and Victoria is hinted at goes underdeveloped and eventually forgotten.)

Bob Hoskins isn't far off from Ben Kingsley in "Sexy Beast," but no matter. He's a movie by himself, a growling and vulgar yet strangely introspective fiend who, like all the great movie gangsters, makes you like him almost as much as you hate him.

No question, the film is uniquely entertaining in a visceral, emotional way. But I wonder who its audience is. The people who will most enjoy its smashing violence -- did I mention Danny gets entered in a to-the-death fight club? -- will probably be impatient with the film's moodier, more genteel sections. And those who will be touched most by Danny's transformation from killing machine to human being might be put off by the horrific violence that precedes and follows it. I envision a lot of people liking this movie, but few really loving it.

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originally posted: 05/19/05 15:47:56
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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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