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Though I am not a huge Action buff, when I saw a preview for “Unleashed”, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but I didn’t feel like shelling out a large amount of cash to see it. Recently it hit the cheap theaters, which meant it was movie time for me. “Unleashed” has a really good story, some great acting, but sadly, it always has it’s fair share of flaws.
The Storyline goes something like this. The childlike Danny (Jet Li) has been raised to be the ultimate killer. Since he was a child he has lived in cage, been treated like a dog, and taught to believe that his only purpose is to whoop ass when Uncle Bart (Bob Hoskins) takes his collar off. Bart is a loan shark, and as the film begins, Danny has been in his profession for quite a while. Eventually Bart learns he can make more money from Danny talents by throwing him into underground Arena Death Matches. Sadly, shortly after Bart figures this out, he has already pissed off the wrong people. A hit is put out on Bart and his entourage. Danny, manages to escape the hit wounded, and thinks that Bart is dead. The only place he can think to go is to a piano antique store where earlier he had met a kindly, blind piano tuner named Sam (Morgan Freeman). Sam ends up taking Danny into his home, where he lives with his 18 year old stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). Danny is nursed back to health, physically, mentally and emotionally. Quickly Danny becomes part of Sam and Victoria’s family. Everything is great until Danny learns that Bart is still alive, and looking for his dog.
This movie manages to be a really good drama. The story of Danny becoming part of Sam’s family is well directed, and even touching at points. Even the background story involving Bart is well done. Hoskins does a great job as the Danny’s brutal master. The problem comes with the fact that “Unleashed” is also an action film. All of the action scenes are well put together, and the scenes at the beginning deliver the thrills, but the action during the second half seems more boring than thrilling. First off, the Arena Scenes are downright cheesy, and they even involve absurd, Mad Max type outfits. That worked in Mad Max, but not in “Unleashed“. Secondly, the action during the second half of the film feels very sterile, much like the action scenes in the last two Matrixs. The director managed to squeeze almost all of the intensity out with sloppy camera cuts that are supposed to look cool. One scene between Danny and Bart’s new bad ass fighter (who is wearing an outfit he had to steal from Yanni’s closet) just drags on and on with no intensity. This is probably the directors fault. The director does some good work in this film, but most of the action scenes just suck. The producers should have had John Woo come in and take the camera over for the action scenes, and fired the wardrobe supervisor the first day. I can dream can’t I.
The film does have some plot holes, including one downright awkward gap at the end, but it is nothing that cannot be forgiven. The ending is also a little too sentimental for my taste, and the final confrontation between Danny and Bart is not as fulfilling as it could have been. The script was written by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional), and is good, in fact it is better than most action film scripts. The soundtrack is by the awesome Massive Attack, and is great for the most part, but the music during the action scenes can be a bit much at times. All of the main characters are played wonderfully by their actors. I can’t help thinking that this movie could have been better. The director is Louis Leterrier whose only other movie is “The Transporter”, which I never saw. Not a bad director, but he definitely dropped the ball a few times in this one.
Despite my complaining, there was some great stuff in this film, but sadly the film is only good. It is entertaining, and worth a watch, but not the near masterpiece it could have been. 3 ½ Cans.
Added: Saturday, June 11, 2005
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