A/V Room









Unleashed (18)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of. Making of SFX. Cut scenes. Out-takes. Music video: RZA - Baby Boy. Regions 2/4.

IT'S rare to find a mainstream martial arts movie that dares to transcend its boundaries but Unleashed does just that in splendidly entertaining fashion.

Jet Li, the Fred Astaire of action sequences, stars as Danny, a human rottweiler who has been kept as a dog by his vicious benefactor, Bart (Bob Hoskins), to strike fear into any enemies of the Glasgow-based loan shark.

Whenever a loan is missed, Bart lets Danny off his leash by removing his human collar - thereby allowing Li to demonstrate his martial arts prowess in a series of bone-crunching fight sequences that are breathtaking but brutal.

Things change dramatically, however, when Danny meets a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman's Sam) and subsequently escapes his cage to take refuge with him and his step-daughter, Victoria (Kerry Condon).

But as Danny begins to discover what it is to be human - learning to play the piano and eat ice-cream - his past threatens to catch up with him and it isn't long before Danny has to fight again to protect his new-found life.

Unleashed is one of the most bizarre action films to come along in a while given its mix of extreme violence and sugar-coated sentiment.

Yet it is utterly compelling and actually affords Li the opportunity to demonstrate some acting ability to match his physical attributes.

His scenes with Freeman and Condon lend the movie a great deal of dramatic weight, while even Hoskins shines as the villain of the piece, hinting at some humanity in spite of the way he mistreats Danny.

It is a credit to director, Louis Leterrier, producer, Luc Besson, and Li himself that the film seldom does what is expected but never seems overly ridiculous.

What's more, it still manages to deliver moments of balletic action to rival the best in the genre, thanks to the presence of Matrix choreographer, Yuen Wo Ping, and Li himself.

The result is something quite extraordinary - a martial arts movie with heart that isn't afraid to mix brawn with brains.

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