"Unleashed delivers where it counts, which is the bone-breaking action which was sorely missing from Cradle 2 The Grave."

- Ningen

Unleashed (2005)

Director: Louis Leterrier

Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Kamen

Producer: Luc Besson, Steve Chasman, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam

Cast: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Andy Beckwith, Scott Adkins, Silvio Simac, Christian Gazio

Running Time: 133 min.

Plot: This is the story of Danny (Li), a slave who has lived his whole life without any sort of normal human education, with the mind and personality of a young child, with only one lesson learned: how to fight. Treated like a dog by his owner/boss, Bart (Hoskins) which includes having to wear a collar, Danny has been raised to be a lethal fighting machine who fights in illegal gladiator-style fight clubs, where he earns lots of money for Bart as the undisputed champion. After a car accident that lands Bart in a coma, however, Danny meets a kind elderly blind piano tuner (Freeman) on the run because he knows secrets some bad guys don't want known, who uses music to teach Danny some things about the world and about being human...


AMERICAN NINJA MAN'S REVIEW: I have to first get this off my chest...mainly Unleashed is a great bad movie. So ridiculous in its earnest phoniness is it that I can't believe critics and HK fanboys bought into this as being the best American Jet Li movie to date, I've alway considered myself a non-conformist (seriously look at the crap I watch) and let me tell you that I had a blast with this blissfully awful Jet Li action flick. However, is it good? That depends. Are watching movies produced by Vince McMahon good? Are watching movies with Sasha Mitchell good? How about Bruce Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Jeff Speakman? If you answer that they make good movies, this is only the right answer when compared to the unbelievable badness of Unleashed.

To be fair, Unleashed does have some good action sequences. It's good to know Jet Li can still kick ass and deliver what we all love him for. Aside from that, Unleashed is unadulterated badness with a capital B. I of course loved every single hilarious moment of Unleashed.

The story which is why the movie is so hilarious, is about a slave-like asian who works as muscle to Bob Hoskins, whenever they take off Jet Li's leash voila it's butt kicking time, however realizing how deadly Jet Li is, Hoskins decides to enter Jet Li into a Bloodfist II style tournament where the fights are to the death. (What tournament movies aren't involved in this type of plot line?) Anyway, the true grotesque (hilarious) awfulness comes when Jet Li escapes his master and 'bonds' with a blind man played by Morgan Freeman and looks at Kerry Condon as fuckable. Something that would take 5 beers minimum and of course it doesn't take a genius to figure out that he will find his redemption at the hands of the gentleness that these two characters inspire. Of course this is the whole entire problem with Unleashed, instead of turning Jet Li into a complete balls to the walls killing machine, they turn him into a Montel Williams-inspired puddle of wuss. Would you believe Jet Li actually learns how to eat ice cream? Or for that matter a sequence where Jet Li hides under the bed from Kerry Condon. Not that I blame him, that chick is the sole example on why England doesn't produce that many hot babes to pull taffee to. Kerry Condon (Sort of like condom, which is the closest she comes to even getting one to think about sex) is Jet Li's love interest in Unleashed. Is this the best Jet can do?

Then there's Bob Hoskins which gives meaning to the term Busey-like insanity. In fact Hoskins performance is so Gary Busey-like, that I refuse to call it acting. In fact, I rather like to think of it as if Gary himself gained weight (More then he already has) shaved his head, made himself shorter and conducted the performance in an English accent. That's how terrible Hoskins is, besides what has Hoskins done that's been any good since 1995 or so? Morgan Freeman pretty much phones it in as the blind guy who looks as if he was trying to win an oscar for Ray 2. Freeman's nice guy persona is of course the best work in the film but come on, is this all they could come up with?

However the biggest sadness comes from witnessing Jet Li. And by that we witness his complete wussiness unfold. After seeing him dispatch goons with relative ease in Hong Kong and with CGI help in his American movies, I can't remember a role that was so ridiculous in its earnestness and so absurd to begin with. Jet Li was easily the best on screen fighter since Bruce Lee (Yes, I like Jet better than Jackie) and when he did his thing it was very rare that I wasn't engrossed in the madness of Li and those flying fists of fury. (His Hong Kong work and Kiss Of The Dragon) However seeing him play such a weakling to the audience is almost as embarrassing as watching Chow Yun Fat play second fiddle to that annoying kid from the American Pie films. Jet Li in fact looks more like he wants a hug rather than administer a royal beating. This is all fine and dandy for a soap opera but for an action movie? Come on, get on with the beatings.

However, the saving grave of this film outside of the surprisingly good action is the sheer laughablity that this inept melodrama inspires. We watch in sheer horror as Jet Li tries his hardest to get in touch with his feminine side, Hoskins pulls a Gary Busey and Condon tries to act sexy but this all falls so short and goes so over the top that all they needed was a laughtrack. In fact forget the laugh track give us Mike and The Bots and the sheer absurdness can only be documented through MST3K's medium. Still I have to love the overall ridiculousness of such a concept. Mainly how one thought that having Bob Hoskins walk around with Jet Li on a leash wouldn't inspire laughs. In fact there were times where Jet Li's character reminded me of the gimp in Pulp Fiction, and with it's S&M theme rampant this is quite possibly the only worse idea to ever incorporate into a martial arts soap opera. In fact Unleashed shares a lot in common with 91/2 Weeks (Except sadly no Kim Basinger forced to pick up money while Mickey Rourke tries to hit her with a belt, that's another classic bad flick.) I mean they even have a food scene. And much like 91/2 weeks the moral is of course "Get out of a degrading situation" Of course the one advantage 91/2 Weeks had was Kim Basinger constantly getting naked. This just has Jet Li acting like a sheer wuss.

Unleashed is truly as hilarious as they come, a big budget bomb that only a demented genius could foist on the unsuspecting public. In other words, a perfect way to spend an evening laughing like a loon at bad movies.


OZARK SAVAGE'S REVIEW: Danny (Jet Li) is a dog, well a man raised like one. Caged and trained to be an unstoppable martial-arts machine when unleashed. He escapes his life when an attempt on his owner/boss (Hoskins) leaves his shot but alive. He ends up in the home of blind piano tuner (Freeman) and his step-daughter (Kerry Condon). Trying to start a new life with a family his past catches up with him all too soon.

Luc Besson wrote the script of this movie for Jet Li and as in previous movies from the French auteur the character of Danny fills a familiar posisiton. Much like The Professional's 'Leon' (Jean Reno) and to some extent La Femme Nikita's Nikita (Anne Parillaud), Danny is childlike in nature, an innocent corrupted to do evil things just because that is all he knows. Then he finds himself in a place where he can escape all the past and start anew or so he thinks. At it's bare bones it is a film about family and finding your place in that family.

Definately more dramatic than the trailers and advertisements would have you think and this isn't bad, unlike when Van Damme started trying to act with Nowhere to Run, Jet Li has some acting muscle to flex. His character lacks any facial emmotion but his eyes tell a different story and this is where Li excells he carries himself so well you often forget he is an action star. In fact he even outshines the always great Freeman and Hoskins.

Then comes the action. And boy is it action. Jet Li IS an animal and the martial arts choreography courtesey of Yuen Wo Ping is sublime. The bathroom fight between Danny and 'The Stranger' (Michael Ian Lambert) is a particular high point. Fast, viscious and insane.

The Good: Jet Li's best Hollywood work to date.
The Bad: Kerry Condon as the daughter seems a little out of place.
The Ugly: Bob Hoskins isn't a very nice person.

OZARK SAVAGE'S RATING: Action Unleashed. 9/10

NINGEN'S REVIEW: After failing to make any money off the dubbed and edited Fist of Legend, and after getting kicked out of his own company by Disney, Harvey Weinstein kidnaps Jet Li in the middle of the night, and forces him to beat up investors who refuse to take a chance on Playing for Keeps 2. All kidding aside, Unleashed is really about a British loan shark played by Bob Hoskins who uses a non-collared Jet Li to beat up his "clients" when they don't pay up. In his spare time, Hoskins' character Bart keeps Li (known as Danny in the film) in check by making him wear a collar and by verbally abusing him. Eventually, Bart tangles with people way out of his league, and while they're busy trying to bump him off, Danny escapes with the help of a blind piano tuner named Sam(wonderfully played by Morgan Freeman) whom he met earlier. Sam lives with a perky and out-going daughter named Victoria who's currently enrolled at school abroad. Together, the two "tame" Danny by tending to his wounds and helping him get back on his feet. Having never encountered this kind of friendship before, Danny decides to cut ties with Bart so he can join Sam and Victoria on their trip back to the States.

I saw a sneak preview of this flick through the Asian Film Foundation. Before the screening, the guy who runs http://www.angryasianman.com/ introduced the flick and admitted his apprehension at the premise, but that he enjoyed the final product because Jet gets to (I probably got this wrong...) "show his acting chops and kick some white ass". I agree with the latter more than the former. Jet's said for a long time that this was a project he picked, because he had a problem with fans admiring him for roles in which he solely fights. Thus he signed up for Unleashed, because he wanted to show that fighting has its consequences. And boy does this film have consequences. This isn't your typical wuxia/Drunken Master-like choreography from Yuen Woo Ping. No, Unleashed is pure no-holds-barred street fighting, with limbs and necks being broken frequently throughout the film. People in the audience were gasping in awe at the brutality of the fights. And I wasn't immune to being impressed either, as I would swear whenever the action scenes went overboard, which was often. I was initially afraid that Yuen Woo Ping's moves would be minimized by the cameraman for Besson who ruined Kiss of the Dragon, but Ping was smart enough to use dark and cramped locations which forced the cameraman to move back to catch it all. I thought Ping reached his potential with Reloaded, but Unleashed proved he's still got a few moves up his sleeve.

As for Jet, well, his English has improved, but in terms of acting, Freeman steals the show. Jet is still the loveable naive but charismatic average Joe we've seen in other flicks, but I was hoping he'd show his more emotional side in Unleashed. I also thought his character's blooming romance with Victoria was a little flat and forced, but it was still sweet and innocent enough to be passable. Freeman, on the other hand, possibly because he literally plays the father figure, gets all the good lines, and is so exceptional as a blind man, that, if only he were younger, he would've been my pick for Ray over Jamie Foxx in a second. Still, I think both Jet and Freeman could've been given roles with more depth. You barely know anything about their family histories which might've added to their importance in the film. If it weren't for their performances, I probably wouldn't care about their characters.

Anyway, Unleashed delivers where it counts, which is the bone-breaking action which was sorely missing from Cradle 2 The Grave. So thank you for renewing my interest in Jet, Yuen Woo Ping. Quentin may have wasted your talents in Kill Bill, but you're the real star in Unleashed.

NINGEN'S RATING: 8.5/10 (Add a 0.5 or a 1 if you don't mind the rushed plot.)