Film ó Unleashed (R)

Unleashed (R)

by Amy Diaz

Jet Li uses his big eyes and his crazy-impressive martial arts skill to turn a mediocre story into an entertaining action flick in Unleashed.

Actually, I suppose all credit doesnít go to Li. Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins also turn in performances that, despite watery dialog and occasionally silly plot, are still enjoyable. The movie never pretends to be any more than it is but all involved seem to have taken their work relatively seriously (at least enough to do a consistently good job).

Danny (Li) holds the rather unlikely position of human dog. He serves as the mindless, consciousless muscle of Bart (Hoskins), a gangster. Raised to fight deadly on command and be docile otherwise, Danny seems perpetually sad but unable to fight for himself as he does for Bart. On one job with Bart, however, Danny glimpses a kinder, less violent world. He meets Sam (Freeman), a blind piano tuner. He is entranced by the piano and taken with Samís kindness. So when Bart is apparently killed in a car accident, an injured Danny seeks Sam out. Sam and his 18-year-old step-daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) take Danny in. Despite his years of animal-like treatment, Danny quickly learns to be a civilized person with Sam and Victoria, exploring the pleasures of ice cream, music and life without the collar that Bart kept on Danny between fights. Danny flourishes in this environment and, when Bart reenters his life, Danny finds himself unable to resume his old ways.

Unleashed has a predictable plot and unextraordinary dialog. But the actors, while not exactly hurting themselves to get a good performance, put forth enough effort to make the experience entertaining if cheesily so. Liís use of martial arts is impressive and exciting to watch. He takes the time to make each punch part of an overall plan, as though it is one beat of the drum in a percussion-filled song.

- Amy Diaz

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