Wednesday 26th January 2022

Unleashed (18)
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

There's a temporary lull in the summer release schedule this week, with understandably few new releases between Batman Begins and the forthcoming Spielberg/Cruise epic War of the Worlds. This means I have had to review a film I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at, even though it's not scheduled for release in the UK until August!

Less piano playing, more fighting!
Less piano playing, more fighting!

Unleashed, also known as Danny the Dog, stars martial artist Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman. I never thought I'd see those three starring in a film together. Jet Li plays Danny, who has been brought up from an early age by cockney gangster Bart (Hoskins) and trained to act pretty much like an attack dog, complete with a collar. Danny obeys his master's every wish and can be made to change from an introvert with childlike innocence to a heartless killing machine with the simple removal of his collar.

When the film opens, Danny's job is to help his boss collect money owed to him by beating up anyone who doesn't pay up. However, later Danny is entered into illegal death matches, and Bart begins to see the potential to make serious money from his human dog. Things get stirred up further though, when Danny escapes one day and is taken in by a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman). Danny discovers a love of piano music, a new found respect for life and is finally given the opportunity to stop killing people and grow into an adult.

This film was written by a French chap called Luc Besson, who is responsible for some really good films (Leon, The Fifth Element), however he has handed the directorial reins over to a relative newcomer, fellow Gaul Louis Leterrier. Somehow, between the two of them, they've managed to pull together a film that displays flashes of greatness, but is mostly pretty bad.

The film starts off with some very cool fight scenes, in which Jet Li does some brutal martial arts moves. His portrayal of a soulless killer is dark and chilling and damn good fun to watch. Of course, the golden rule of action films is that each set-piece has to be bigger and better than the previous one, until the climax of the film, and that seems to be something forgotten here. As the film goes on the fight scenes get longer and tamer, and they don't seem to come along nearly as often as they should.

Leterrier has obviously concentrated on character development, which is commendable, but he seems to have been labouring under the impression that he is telling some kind of profound story that will have us all in floods of tears, rather than the slightly-above-average kung fu film he should have been making.

This unusual approach together with a bizarre cast, a Glasgow setting (without a single Scottish person appearing) and a decent soundtrack by Massive Attack makes a strangely mismatched film that I can't really recommend. It's not necessarily awful, but it is weird and certainly not that good.

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Length: 102 minutes
Certificate: 18
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 19th August 2005

Top Five Rating: 60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0% (60.0%)
User Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)

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