I recently had the pleasure to watch the latest
Luc Besson film Unleashed.
Now, I don't know if it is whether I am quickly becoming a fan of Luc Besson
or if Jet Li kicks ass in this film, but I loved this movie.
Unleashed- The Plot
While showing the movie trailer for Unleashed to a couple of my buddies I noticed that a lot of people were getting the wrong impression on the story for the film. The Unleashed trailer makes the film seem that is similar to the Van Damn movie Lion Heart-- a movie that offers meaningless action through a series of scheduled fights. Let me tell you that this is not the case for Unleashed. While Danny [Jet Li] is forced to do a couple fights in what I can only call a rumble pit, this is not the story to the film, nor does the fights in the pit take up any majority of Unleashed.
Instead, Unleashed is a story of a guy named Danny, who was taken from his parents at a very young age by a ruthless crime boss [Bob Hoskins]. While Danny does consider his boss his 'uncle', the truth is that the boss is master and Danny is slave. Because of this, Danny is not exactly socialized for the real world, causing him to act more like a child; a deadly child at that. All Danny understands is how to fight and how to effectively hurt people. However, Danny has been trained to only do so when his collar comes off.
However, Danny still has a side of him that wants to be loved and wants a piano [for reasons that we discover later]. In a crazy turn of events, Danny is given the chance he has always wanted after a car accident puts him in the hands of elderly blind piano tuner [Morgan Freeman]. After being invited into the piano tuner's family, Danny is re-socialized and given a second chance. However, Danny is a valuable asset and the search for him continues from his 'uncle.'
Unleashed- The Movie
Unleashed is a perfect reminder of why I enjoy Luc Besson films. The producer can take rough-around-the edges characters and make you care for them. If you remember the film The Professional [Leon], Besson was able to make us care for a quiet hitman [Jean Reno] forced into adopting a little girl [Natalie Portman]. Unleashed is easily one of Jet Li's best performances and Morgan Freeman compliments him perfectly.
Morgan Freeman also plays a wonderful role.
I am so used to Jet Li having the simple angle of 'tough guy fighter' that I was greatly relieved to see that for Unleashed he offers up probably his deepest character to date. The movie allows you to watch and Danny go from un-socialized killer to a person who seeks love from his new family. So, let me just say this now, a good portion of Unleashed is not action. Accept for the first and final act, Unleashed is strictly a story of Danny molding into a new and loving family.
Now, don't think the middle act is boring in any regard. To be honest, the middle act for some may be their favorite part. This entire segment has some of the best pacing I have ever seen. While I thought the middle act was going to either lose me or hurry through at such a pace that I wouldn't have time to even care about the characters, that was not nearly the case. Yes, we get to watch Danny learn to love and be loved, but we don't lose track of the film while doing so. Actually, I found this section of Unleashed to be quite charming.
Onto the Action
I am sure most of the viewers of Unleashed will be going for the sole purpose of insane action. Well, Unleashed does not disappoint in this arena either. For one, I have to shout relief by stating that the fights are not the common wire fighting that we have become accustomed to. You know, where the guy jumps and is able to defy gravity and pull of six kicks in the air. If wires were used in Unleashed, I couldn't spot any unnecessary floating.
There are four big fighting sequences in Unleashed, and they all kick ass. Louis Leterrier [director], not wanting to start the film on a soft foot, opens up Unleashed with a three-minute beat down that serves to show what kind of servant Danny is. He is a fighting machine that serves his master on debt collection. If people don't pay their debts, Danny's collar gets taken off.
Bob Hoskins plays 'Uncle' Bart
Each fighting sequence is so perfectly choreographed that it does NOT look choreographed. Each fight seems extremely real, with people having arms broken, faces punched, and legs kicked. If you strictly love fight scenes, you will love Unleashed. When Jet Li fights, he becomes some sort of unrelenting animal with bar style fighting tactics. I loved every punch, head butt, kick, and flip.
There is More to Unleashed
To sum up the above, the action and the acting is nothing short of excellent in Unleashed. But what did I think about the story as a whole or the cinematography? In short, both excellent. While Unleashed is not meant to be as grand as Kingdom of Heaven or Revenge of the Sith, Luc Besson still serves up a unique, yet simple, story that is utterly flawless with every detail served perfectly to moviegoers.
The cinematography, with its rotating camera arcs and gritty flashbacks, is beautifully done. One of my favorite parts is that the camera is not afraid to stare down Jet Li's character, to show the emotion that comes off his face. Something completely different than just about every Jet Li film before this.
Final Judgment: Other films should take notes from Unleashed. Hollywood
movies today strive more for flawed blockbuster movies. Take Troy
and Kingdom of Heaven for example- while both films huge budget
and battles bring people to the box-office, they remain to be flawed films.
It is becoming more common to walk into a huge big-budget movie and leave
the theatre thinking 'eh, just ok.' Unleashed shows us how a
movie should be by taking the number one most important element, the story,
and bringing it to the screen perfectly. Oh yeah, the fight scenes are
pretty rad too.