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"
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.