One of Jet Li’s best English movies, Unleashed brings about a lot of emotions to its audience. The action legend comes out as a different kind of fighter in this 2005 movie. Moving away from the traditional image of an action hero, Li’s character, Danny, is not the big guy out on a mission motivated by some personal misfortune, but a dog – quite literally – who just does what his master orders him.
Jet Li did a good performance showing all sides of Danny the Dog’s characteristics. There is the ferocious man acting like a pit bull mercilessly beating his opponents to death which viewers can readily see at the beginning of the movie. This character is frightening, for a second you would think that you are watching a psychopath. On the other hand, he also has a soft side that the audience might even find adorable for Li’s child-like portrayal of the innocent man. This role would not have worked if it was played by any other action star.
The bad guy, on the other hand, known as Bart is played by Bob Hoskins, Hoskins was conveniently chosen to represent Bart, the heartless gangster of Glasgow, which is of similar character to Harold Shand from The Long Good Friday (1980) that he portrayed as well. This role was obviously not much of a challenge for him as he effectively demonstrates how grave Danny’s situation is in his hands.
The same goes with Morgan Freeman who plays Sam, a blind-piano player who becomes Danny’s friend. As a kind, loving father, this character is quite simple and again quite convenient as people already perceive him as such. This is because of his portrayal of God in Bruce Almighty (2003) which became some sort of hype for Freeman in certain websites.
Moving on to the story itself: it is very interesting that Luc Besson wrote and produced a movie where the protagonist behaves like an animal. However there are a lot of aspects in the movie where an audience might be left asking. For instance, how was it possible that he was trained to behave like a dog given the circumstances? Not only one, but a number of factors make it hard to believe that he was successfully manipulated to become such. Consistency in Danny’s mental state and behaviour is missing in this story. The scene where Danny and Sam first met, and how Bart and Danny’s mom met seems to be quite out of place as well.
The action element can improve either, honestly speaking. Yes it is heart-stopping because of the realistic punches and kicks – especially the head banging parts in the movie. And Jet Li is Jet Li – he does make every audience want to learn to fight. However the audience can see here once again the tradition of one hundred henchmen attacking the hero one at a time to make sure he doesn’t die. But that is what has become the norm in martial arts movies- unrealistic yet entertaining to watch. The fight scene inside a small arena could have been made much better, too, if they stuck with one on one battles. Too bad Scott Adkins’ amazing skills are not yet fully discovered at the time of the making of this movie or it would have been an interesting fight between the two.
But on a more positive note, the entire movie is very entertaining. From being brutally thrilling to comic and heart-warming, this movie keeps your eyes glued to the screen. The end fight is exceptionally choreographed with an amazing close quarters fight scene taking place inside a toilet! Without being too critical with its details – and because of the actors’ great performance – one can definitely enjoy the movie.