Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring:||Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Andy Beckwith|
|Producer:||Luc Besson, Steve Chasman, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam|
Serve no master.
I just don’t understand some parents. I have read enough comments on this site from parents and heard from enough people I know who are horrified with the content in films nowadays and how inappropriate it is for children to view such material. But many times, these comments come from parents who take their younger children (13 and under) to go see R-rated films, and then cry bloody murder cause they were offended that their kid saw that stuff.
I remember reading something from a mom who took her younger kids to see the “Passion of the Christ” and was appalled because it was so violent. Ratings are in place for a reason, and while the ratings boards don’t always get it right (like many PG-13 movies that would have been R ten years ago), most of the time when a movie is rated R it is NOT for children. That is what disturbed me most while viewing Jet Li’s latest R-rated action film “Unleashed.” I knew there would probably be objectionable content: the obligatory violence and blood and overall mass carnage that comes with any film of this genre, and since Bob Hoskins is playing an angry violent gangster, I knew I could count on some profanity.
What I wasn’t expecting were so many kids in the theater. I am not talking about 13 and 14 year-olds who snuck in from another movie, but little kids that could not have been older than 8. When I got into the theater, I counted 11 different children who all had to be under the age of ten sitting happily with their parents like they were about to watch “The Lion King” or something. I walked out of the room twice to make sure I hadn’t accidentally wandered into another film.
Having said all that, for adults at least, “Unleashed” is a rather preposterously plotted, but nonetheless intriguing film starring Jet Li. Li plays Danny, the collar-wearing martial artist who is the weapon of choice of gangster Bart, played by Bob Hoskins.
Bart has raised Danny since childhood, after Danny supposedly showed up at Bart’s door, an orphan who wandered the streets with no money or food. Bart has controlled Danny since then by using a collar that is only removed by Bart. Bart has trained Danny to be a lethal killing machine, and uses him whenever debts owed to Bart don’t get paid. When debts don’t get paid, Bart takes the collar off, and Danny beats senseless those who don’t pay.
Once the collar is put back on, Danny returns to normal until the next time Bart needs him to enforce something.
Danny is by no means a bad person, on the contrary, when the collar is on, he is very soft-spoken, almost child-like in his simplicity and has an interesting obsession with pianos. Danny escapes from Bart after they are in a car accident where Danny thinks Bart has been killed. He runs off to find Sam (Morgan Freeman), a blind piano tuner he had previously met during one of Bart’s debt collections.
Sam is a kind, generous man, and takes Danny in to live with him and his chatty step-daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). Victoria immediately takes a liking to him, in a sweet sort of way, and begins to teach Danny simple things about everyday life to help him adjust.
Danny begins a quiet life with them, but unbeknownst to him, Bart is still alive and looking for Danny, his most valuable hit man, and he will stop at nothing to get him back.
The content of “Unleashed” will, and probably should, keep many away from this film. Needless to say, it is rather violent and bloody, with the first few minutes containing some of the film’s more brutal fight scenes. There are also some out of place scenes featuring Danny fighting in a cage match where the last one alive at the end of the fight wins.
There is also plenty of profanity, with numerous uses of the f-word and of the Lord’s name in vain. Sexual dialogue is present, as is some brief nudity in two very brief, strong sex scenes.
This is not a film parents will want their children seeing, no matter how old their children are. This is an adult action film, and parents should be very hesitant about letting teens see it as well.
“Unleashed” is a very odd film, one that feels like two movies—an occasionally hokey drama and an over-the-top action film—meshed into one. The movie is book-ended with violent, edgy scenes, but the middle has a sweetness not usually associated with this genre.
Jet Li is great as Danny, and I was surprised that he was able to make us sympathetic with his character, even in scenes that would have been downright cheesy in other films.
Morgan Freeman is a joy to watch, as always, and delivers the film’s best line near the end after beating someone over the head with a flower pot. And Bob Hoskins is downright vicious in his role as Bart, and milks his character for all he is worth.
Had “Unleashed” simply been a hokey drama or a bare-knuckle action film, it probably wouldn’t have worked. But that odd combination, along with some decent performances, make “Unleashed” an interesting experience, but one for ADULTS only.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/nudity: Heavy
Year of Release—2005 / USA opening: May 13, 2005
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