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"Is it great?  Read on and find out!

No, it's not great."










The Masked Reviewer

Slavery.  It makes for great comedies and great action movies, and Unleashed is an action movie.  Is it great?  Read on and find out!

No, it's not great.

But it's not bad, either.  Produced by Luc Besson, Unleashed has some interesting pacing and ideas that are slightly more complicated than "Revenge!" or "Kill!"  If you're a fan of La Femme Nikita or The Professional (also known as Leon) or The Transporter or Kiss of the Dragon, then you'll have a good idea what to expect from Unleashed.  The only problem is, it's not quite up to par with any of those films. 

The biggest problem is that the film attempts to integrate a caring emotional movie with a butt-kicking frenzy, and both fall a little bit flat.  On their one, each would probably fare better.  Morgan Freeman plays a caring old blind man who tries to help Jet Li, the star.  Actually, Jet Li wasn't their first choice.  Jet Dry wasn't available, and Jet Son was too busy getting fired by Mr. Spacely.  In any event, Morgan Freeman is good -- we all know that -- but maybe he's too good for the movie.  You can't help but stop and wonder "Why is Morgan Freeman in this movie?  Who does he owe money to?" and that takes you out of the movie at times. 

Morgan Freeman plays a very nice man -- like he usually does.  Wise, funny, and caring.  He did it in The Shawshank Redemption and Driving Miss Daisy.  He even did it on "The Electric Company".  He's got that part down.  And, he's fun to watch.  However, when you balance that against a guy beating the holy sweet snot out of a group of pipe-wielding thugs, it just seems...kind of hokey.  It's not Morgan Freeman's fault.  It just seems out of place.  If you cut scenes between Fried Green Tomatoes and Independence Day, you'd notice it was a bit odd (in fact, wouldn't that just be Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?).  Unleashed is a bit odd.

Also added to the mix is Bob Hoskins, who you may remember from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Bob Hoskins is brilliant in this film, and one of the highlights.  He's a despicable fiend, but there's a certain charm and bizarre appeal to his character, which works really well, considering that Jet Li's character has this strange symbiotic relationship with him.  He's funny and compelling.

And then, there's Jet Li.  This will be (for American audiences, at least) the first time we see Jet Li acting.  His motivation is: a dog.  He has the hang-dog look and sad puppy eyes.  He basically is acting retarded (developmentally retarded, that is...don't go sending the Masked Reviewer any angry notes about how politically incorrect it is to refer to an idiot as a "retard"...Jet Li's character is developmentally retarded, so there).  As we all know, playing a retard can get you an Academy Award (tm) nomination...but Jet Li shouldn't go out and buy any Oscar(tm) polish yet.  He's not bad -- for an action star.  It's not too corny, for the most part, but that's about all you can say.  It could've gone horribly wrong.  People in the audience didn't burst out laughing when they weren't supposed to.  And yet, it seemed like they tried to make it much more heavy than it should've been.  It's hard to get really emotionally involved in a character when you have to periodically stop to watch him beat up a room full of people. 

Of course, the bigger disappointment with Unleashed is with the action.  There's not nearly as much martial arts as you might expect or hope for.  There's a bit in the beginning, a little in the middle, and a bunch at the end, but it feels like very little with long gaps of emotional "finding yourself" stuff in between.  That won't satisfy a lot of Jet Li's fans. 

The fight scenes themselves aren't particularly noteworthy.  There are a couple of nice little moments, but it's hard to say that they're enough to give the movie a good review on their own merits.  The best thing that can be said about the fighting is the ferocity with which Jet Li fights.  When he's "unleashed", he goes nuts.  It's fast and furious, a style you don't see very much of. 

If they had twice as much fighting and half as much emotional stuff, it would've been a very good martial arts flick.  If they had twice as much emotional stuff and half as much fighting, it would've been a decent drama.  As it is, it's an unfulfilling martial arts movie and a somewhat sappy drama.  Fans of Bob Hoskins and Jet Li will have the best time; big fans of Morgan Freeman might be a little bit disappointed to see him in this, but he still does a fine job.


Expectation from the Title: The latest in the "Dogs Gone Wild" series.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Morgan Freeman always seems to be such a nice man.  He'd probably help with the dishes if you invited him over for dinner.

The Pros: A few good martial arts moments, Bob Hoskins was fun, Morgan Freeman is good but seems out of place.

The Cons: Not enough fighting, too talky and schmaltzy for a butt-kick flick.  Makes you wonder if Morgan Freeman is okay.

Jet Lee, Jett Li, Bob Hopkins, Morgan Friedman: they're all here.

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