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Vince's Unleashed Review

Published May 15, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Rogue Pictures
Unleashed Unleashed
You ever walk in to a movie expecting one thing and getting something entirely different? That's the way I felt after seeing Unleashed which has a action all star crew in Writer / Director / Producer Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional), martial arts super choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (The Matrix, Kung Fu Hustle, Kill Bill) and lastly martial arts superstar Jet Li (Cradle 2 the Grave, The One, Romeo Must Die). With all this talent together for one film you'd expect a big slugfest with little story and lots of fighting, right? Well what you get is little action and lots of story which, for an action film, is not what I paid to see.

Unleashed The Movie

Unleashed centers on Danny (Li), a Chinese man who was raised since he was a boy to be a ruthless killer on command. His boss Bart (Bob Hoskins in a great role) keeps him in control by keeping a metal collar around Danny's neck and releasing it when the dirty work needs to be done. After a rivalry comes to a head in a violent car accident, Danny gets his freedom and finds a home with Sam (Morgan Freeman), a blind piano tuner and his step daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). Together they try to help Danny get the normal life he's been yearning for, but Bart's determination to get him back at any cost gets in their way.

Right off the bat, as you can tell from the synopsis, this story for Unleashed is as cheesy as it gets. By trying to give this film a "human" side instead of an hour and half of action the film really loses its edge as well as its audience. There may be a legion of die hard Jet Li fans out there that will pay to see anything he's in, but the last thing they really want to see is him trying to stretch his acting chops in a serious role. The thing is, that's pretty much what this entire movie is. Aside from the first 15 minutes and 3 or 4 scenes in between this movie is all about drama and fails to find that balance of drama and action it needs to succeed. It's a shame that the man responsible for such great action/drama films as La Femme Nikita and The Professional (hell, I'd even throw The Fifth Element in there) could write this overly sappy film.

Unleashed Unleashed
Aside from the Bob Hoskins performance the acting is just as bad as the story. Jet Li gives it his best, but instead of being a lost troubled soul he looks more like a heroin addict whose at the peak of tripping out. Morgan Freeman plays the typical "Morgan Freeman role" except this time in order to throw a curve they make him a blind Morgan Freeman. He seems to be having fun playing this role, but to me (and this will get me flack form a lot of people) other than the fact that he's blind his role reminds me of almost everything else he's been in. And don't get me started on the daughter. I think it was more the part that was written for her, but she just came off as too icky sweet and annoying. Nobody's daughter is that perfect. There is also this strange love connection that is hinted at, but never followed through between Danny and Victoria that given Li's age (41) and the character of Victoria (I think they mention that she is 17) that seems kind of sick.

Unleashed Unleashed
If there is one saving grace for this film it's that Jet Li is a master of action and delivers every time he starts throwing some kicks. Yuen Woo Ping always brings great fight scenes to the table and by teaming up with Jet Li he takes it to the next level. The action in Unleashed is so fast and fluid you almost forget how challenging it must've been to choreograph it, but Li makes it look so easy. Even though the action scenes are few and far between when they do occur they'll blow you away at how fast paced and kinetic they are. One scene in particular, which involves Li fighting an enemy in an extremely tight space, will amaze you with how much action it provides given the limits they have in such a small area.

Besson's pick for director, Louis Leterrier, does a great job of creating a visual look and feel for this film. You can tell the guy has studied under Besson for awhile and has a feel for action films. Every fight scene looks very fluid and there isn't a lot of confusion as to what's going on. It's a really good improvement from his previous film The Transporter.

When it comes down to it, the story to Unleashed is very long and uninteresting. While Jet Li fans will be happy by the great action Unleashed has, they may feel a tad ripped off by the films need to focus more on the drama aspect. Jet Li's first attempt at trying to be a serious actor in a film should be considered a failure, let's hope he gets back to what made him such a big star in the first place, non-stop action.

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Vince Palomarez
Sources: Images property of Rogue Pictures

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