Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Vincent Regan
Written by: Luc Besson
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent content, language and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 103
Date: 02/02/2005

Unleashed (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Collar I.D.

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If a movie is only as good as its villain, then Unleashed is a very good movie indeed. Bob Hoskins plays a Glasgow loan shark who has raised an orphaned Chinese boy to be a lethal fighter, a weapon against deadbeats. Sharp, cynical and with a flicker of pathetic humanity, Hoskins is superb.

Amazingly, he's matched by martial arts superstar Jet Li's equally adept performance as Danny, whose metal collar keeps him in check. Controlled, he's vacant and slouched, but in fighting mode, he's frighteningly vicious. Morgan Freeman plays Sam, the blind American piano tuner who rescues Danny and gives him a new life, and Kerry Condon portrays Victoria, Sam's gawky teenage step-daughter, a budding pianist, who through a mouthful of braces, decides that Danny is "cute."

Written and produced by Luc Besson, the film has its rough spots, but it's beautifully filmed with a steely gray thickness; director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) bestows equal care to Yuen Wo-ping's sharp martial arts choreography and to the emotional richness of these touching characters.

Universal's DVD reportedly comes in the uncut version, though the running time is actually one minute shorter than the time I was given for the theatrical release, so I can't vouch for any difference. Audio and video are superb, and extras include three tiny featurettes and two music videos (by Massive Attack and The RZA).

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