Tuesday, May 31, 2005


This review is brought to you courtesy of Moviexclusive.com (otherwise it won't be out so early, and yup, my luck held out again and I won a lucky draw for free premiere tickets)

Unleashed, aka Danny The Dog (the original title, and the name of Jet Li's lead character), is the latest of a Euro-production meant for the Hollywood market, this one being a French-UK collaboration, with a mainly European production crew, of which the most recognizable name is French director Luc Besson, as the writer of this story.

Known for his gritty tales like The Professional and Kiss of the Dragon (also starring Li), you'd expect something special from Danny The Dog ("Unleashed" was just typed over the main credits, you'd know what I mean). However, the premise is a bit ludicrous and please, leave your brains at the door. Otherwise you'll have trouble understanding why Danny chose to be treated the way he is, given his incredible fighting prowess when his collar's off.

A title with "the dog", and references to dog-calling names like "attaboy", "bitch", etc, obviously do not go down well, and probably won't be tolerated by the Asian market, given the deragatory connotations, hence the classier name "Unleashed". Actually everything has doggie connotations - from the collar to Danny's new surrogate father being a blind man. Some characters bark occassionally too.

But the plot is a bit of a let down, given the main theme which it tries to dwell upon - Family, without much success. Danny lives in a world of thugs and violence, and this world turns upside down when he experiences the sweeter side of life - the normal ones that you and I lead, with Sam (Morgan Freeman) and Victoria (Kerry Condon). OF course when the thugs threaten the new family, you'd expect all hell to break loose as Danny fights to defend the opportunity of leading a new life.

While the action is stylized in the trailers, there isn't much to offer in the movies, despite its explosive start. You can plenty of throwaway characters that Jet dispatches without much sweat. Given the plot straddles between action and melodrama, the former somehow has less screen time - if you want to make an actioner with Jet Li, the action must stand out, no? All you get are basic street fights with Jet hammering away, and hammering, and hammering some more. You get the drift.

The soundtrack is done by Brit trip-hop masters Massive Attack (one of my fav groups), and I actually enjoyed their music being featured in the movie - I think I'm gonna enjoy it more as I identify the tracks being played at particular points in the movie.

I'm not sure if Jet Li had actually opted to do a more dramatic piece, but this film's premise offers him a weak chance to show his acting skills - the audience, in my opinion, as bloodthirsty as those in the underground fight club, secretly hopes that the drama be minimized. It does drag at times, and offers little depth to plot.

Reommended for Jet Li fans only, and even then you might come out disappointed with this effort. Luc Besson, surely you can write better stuff!

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