Friday, May 13, 2005


Unleashed (Director: Louis Leterrier)

Leterrier did art direction for the 2002 cult hit The Transporter and is directing its upcoming sequel. Luc Besson wrote the screenplay and produced with Jet Li.

It's good to see a movie sort of return to Bloodsport. In these kinds of movies, there are underground, illegal fighting matches and betting, and the constant danger of being killed. Unleashed is a little bit more story-wise than that picture and the others that followed it, but it gives you that visceral feel.

Danny (Jet Li) is a man owned and trained like a dog by seedy underworld boss Bart (Bob Hoskins). He wears a collar that has trained him to be complacent, but once the collar comes off and the magic words are whispered in his ears, he becomes a fighting machine. At some point, Danny gets his chance to leave and joins a family unit with patriarch Sam (Morgan Freeman) and stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). Of course, eventually, those worlds collide, and Danny has to fight the abusive upbringing to become a normal human being.

But let's make no mistake; the movie's most entertaining when it's focused on ass-beating on a large scale, and there are extremely well-staged, jump-out-your-seat fights here, my favorite occurring near the end in a tiny bathroom with hardly any room to move in a small apartment. I don't think I've ever seen a Jet Li movie with so much respect for his skills, and he's an affable actor as well. His previous movies that have arrived here in the states have not put his real talent on display--stuff like Romeo Must Die which had to assist Li with CGI. Freeman brings his always Oscar-worthy presence to the film, and who wouldn't want him as a father-figure? Bob Hoskins is his usual great villain self, I'm glad to see him used as a major character for a change. Kudos also go to Condon, a short-haired cutie whose character helps Li's Danny at last break free.

This is a sort of high-minded slugfest, mixing Pavlov with martial arts, with the theme of family in its role as a key into a person's development. It does, for awhile there, get bogged down a touch with Danny's assimilation into his new family, but the movie does not disappoint in the end, and it's a fine summer action film.


At 5/13/2005 03:54:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

After my rant on the lack of no holds barred action films, this looks like it may be an answer to my prayers. I'm really looking forward to this one.


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